Online Reputation Management Case Study: Increasing Your Leads by 33% in 4 Months!

Date posted: July 10, 2020

online reputation management

Online Reputation Management Case Study

There are no magic bullets in digital marketing, and anyone who claims to have one most likely has bad intentions for your marketing dollars. The online landscape has one avenue that comes eerily close to producing magic-like results for your marketing efforts. Online reputation management is an often-misunderstood critical component of an online marketing campaign.

The Stats

A recent study by ReviewTrackers found that 63.6% of all consumers check Google before patronizing a business. Search engines have recognized this consumer behavior and continue to increase the rewards, in the form of rankings, they give to companies with solid reputations.

The recent 2020 State of the Local Industry Report by Moz found that reviews are the second most important factor in rankings, right behind Google My Business elements.

Local Ranking Factors 2020 by Moz

Local Ranking Factors 2020 by Moz

Introduction to the Case Study

reputation case studyIn this case study, Webtivity will explore a recent client online reputation campaign from infancy to maturity. We will endeavor to be as comprehensive as possible with the details to present to you a clear picture of the power of reputation management to building an exhaustive lead generation funnel for a business.

Across the board, there is no other component that has the potential to supersize the returns to your business, regardless of your niche, like reputation management.

Online Reputation Management Case Study Breakdown

Client background

  • Local payroll services provider
  • Established local business
  • Long term client profile

Client Goals

  • Increase sales
  • Increase phone calls leading to sales
  • Increase form submissions

Converted Webtivity Strategic Goals

  • Increase organic search engine rankings
  • Increase high-quality traffic
  • Communicate results to the client

payroll processor company

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online reputation management is the strategic pursuit of public and private customer feedback to nurture and maintain a positive brand name online.

The advent of the likes of Yelp, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack has brought to the forefront for business owners everywhere that reviews and references are still the most valuable currency of new business. In that manner, the online world is very much in line with the real world.

The Problem

reputation problemsThe client wanted more inquiries from potential clients. They were happy with their current consistent returns but wanted an immediately noticeable jump in clients who espoused Google as the original method they found the company. Before the online reputation campaign by Webtivity, they had a total of three reviews across the internet.

Campaign Strategy

Webtivity’s strategy in this case study focuses on two sources of reviews; current and past clients. We employed a strategy centered around engaging, and in some cases re-engaging, the client’s customers to provide feedback on their experience with our client’s services.

We use carefully crafted communications to encourage direct feedback of negative reviews to our client while stimulating positive reviews to be shared across third-party platforms such as Google, Superpages, and others.

Campaign Tracking

Results of a reputation campaign can be seen with an increase in local rankings, interactions with Google My Business, and increases in traffic. In this case, the emphasis is placed on the address, and phone number clicks on the client’s Google My Business page.

Online Reputation Management Case Study Results

The campaign period lasts from August 2019 to November 2019. As seen below in Figure 1, in that time the client’s total reviews went up from their original three to ten total reviews. That’s a 233% increase in reviews in just three short months! By comparison, it took the client nine years to gather three reviews.

online reputation management results

For a business their size, this is a significant jump in references from their clientele. Most importantly, compared to the previous four months, the period of August to November saw a 33% increase in the client’s GMB interactions from asking directions to their office to phone calls!

Case Study Conclusion

Online reputation management works. This case study represents a small snapshot of the possible results one can achieve with a strategic campaign focused on gathering client feedback. The rewards are innumerable from increased business to hearing from your clients directly on how you can improve your business.

But don’t take our word for it, here’s the client’s feedback on Webtivity’s efforts:

reviews client feedback

Prefer it short and sweet? Check out Webtivity’s handy online reputation management infographic below.

online reputation management infographic

This marks the end of our online reputation case study. If you are interested in garnering this type of result for your business, reach out to Tim at 941-753-7574 x107 or send us a message here.

 

 

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5 Ways to Make Your Social Media Posts Stand out on Facebook

Date posted: July 6, 2020

How do you reach your target audience on an ever changing social media platform? How do you get the results you’re aiming for? Here are 5 ways to make your social media posts stand out on Facebook.

social media p

Get To the Point

People don’t want to read a blog when they’re looking at your business Facebook page, that’s what a blog is for. So keep Facebook posts short and sweet. Think of social media as a social event, small talk. Make a point, draw them in, and get out! Maximum engagement for a social media post on a Facebook page happens at 40 characters according to Buffer.

Use Images

It doesn’t matter how great you are with words, your posts NEED to have an image. Posts are visually appealing. You don’t even need to be a professional photographer. Just be relatable. Studies have shown that posts with images get more interaction.

Tag Brands

Using social tagging will bring others in. If you tag your supplier, or a brand you use or love, it allows you to reach them and their followers! This grows your organic reach!

Ask for Likes

Just like you ask for reviews, ask for likes. When someone interacts with your post and they don’t currently “like” your page, ask them to. If you click on the link next to the list of reactions to your post, it will bring up a list of everyone who reacted to your post, and include whether they like your page already. If they don’t; simply hit invite. This is a great way to invite followers of your product or brand who might not be aware that they’re not already following your page.

Begin a Conversation

When you talk to your followers, it builds a sense of community. Pose a question, encourage them to interact with you. This will increase engagement, and make posts more successful.

We have always said it’s important to have a presence on social media, but these days, with more people being at home, it’s even more important. If you need help starting your page, or just want to increase your social media presence, give Tim a call at 727-386-7216 X 107.

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Webtivity Launches New Website for M2 Development Partners!

Date posted: May 29, 2020

M2 Development: Building for the future.

Before:                                                                                                                                  After:

M2 Development beforeM2 Development

M2 Development focuses on the investment, acquisition, and development of residential, commercial and industrial  projects thoughout the United States.  M2, together with its related affiliates and entities, is expanding its’ leadership position in the high-end luxury hotel & hospitality marketplace with its recent acquisition of a site in Nashville’s downtown core for a planned $500,000,000 Mixed-Use Project..

As a fully integrated real estate company, they provide seamless coordination for all phases of development – from concept thru completion.  Their experience, expertise and knowledge of the marketplace allows them to create and deliver well designed and financially viable projects, consistently delivering solid returns for their investors and partners.

Created with the M2 Development Partners’ vision and mission firmly in mind, M2’s new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so that it is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. This new website highlights the varied projects M2 has developed over the past 35+ years and also highlights their projects. There is a special focus on the visionary representation of projects to ensure potential clients get a feel for M2’s design style. Additionally, their supporting services, such as project management and financing, are highlighted to ensure visitors get a complete picture of M2 Development’s experience, expertise and capabilities. Tim, the managing principal at M2 Development Partners, says “I have utilized Webtivity Marketing & Design to produce numerous website for our various Real Estate Development Projects and they have consistently performed at a very high level”.

About M2 Development Partners

M2 Development Partners is a commercial real estate development company providing development, financing, construction and project management consulting across all product types. The Principals have an extensive level of expertise in all aspects of finance and real estate development. For more information, please visit http://www.m2developmentpartners.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

M2 Development Partners – Contact

Tim Morris, Managing Principal

TIM@M2DevelopmentPartners.com

Phone: 248-766-2254

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports!

Date posted: May 15, 2020

Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports: the one-stop-shop for all things fishing, kayaking, and paddling.

 Before:                                                                    After: 

Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports before Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports

Since 1948, Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports has been serving the Sarasota area’s water sport enthusiasts with excellent service and competitive prices. Their tackle department staffs knowledgeable, local Captains, and features live shrimp, frozen bait, as well as the best in both inshore and offshore tackle. Offering brands such as Penn, Shimano, Yeti, and more.

Their Paddlesports center is one of Florida’s finest. It features Kayak brands such as Hobie Mirage Pedal, Wilderness Systems, Perception, Epic and Hurricane. The Stand Up Paddleboard selection includes Surftech, Bic Sport, Boardworks, Sol and Hobie. Trailers and roof rack selection is also offered, built, and installed, specializing in Trailex, Yakima, Malone, and Thule.

Created with the Economy Tackle / Dolphin Paddlesports’ vision and mission firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so that it’s compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. This new website highlights the wealth of offerings available to customers. There is a special focus on the company’s involvement in the community including its long history as a pillar in the community since 1948. This new website also features a product listing component. Al Hurxthal, General Manager, said on Webtivity, “they are professional, attentive to detail and creative in their design work.” All in all, Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports’ new website will help it attract today’s discerning customer.

About Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports

Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports is a full-service water sports store specializing in fishing, kayak sales, and rentals, paddleboard sales and rentals, along with snorkeling gear. Since 1948 Economy Tackle has been meeting the needs of the water enthusiast with exceptional service and knowledge. For more information, please visit https://www.economytackle.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Economy Tackle/Dolphin Paddlesports – Contact

Phone: 941-922-9671

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Google Ads Case Study: Increasing Conversions (Sales) by 28% While Reducing Costs by 21% in 6 Months!

Date posted: April 29, 2020

Google Ads case study

Google Ads Case Study

The fundamentals of a successful Google Ads campaign are simple – the steps to get there, not so much. Getting to that coveted spot of a constantly improving advertising campaign requires a holistic approach that begins with the client and ends with well-executed strategy.

In this Google Ads case study we’ll explore a local business that sells kayaks directly to consumers, without an e-commerce component. This e-commerce limitation allows us to use this as a comparative case for any business looking to increase foot traffic and therefore sales using Google Ads.

Google Ads Case Study Breakdown

Client Background

  • Regional kayak and kayak accessories dealer
  • Established local business

Client Goals

  • Increase sales
  • Increase foot traffic to store
  • Increase qualified leads through phone calls and contact form submissions

Internal Webtivity Goals

  • Increase conversions/sales
  • Lower costs for client
  • Expertly communicate results

Google Ads Case Study: Kayak Dealer

Defining Google Ads

Google Ads is an online advertising platform developed and managed by Google to give advertisers an opportunity to shows ads to visitors to Google.com, Youtube.com, and a wide range of websites included in its advertising network.

Although Google Ads’ offerings vary between display ads, video ads, and text ads they all employ the pay-per-click model. To put it simply an advertiser, pays per click from a potential client on a specific placement or website such as Google.com. Some variations feature pay per impression or ads shown as well although these are a lot less popular on the Google Ads platform.

Campaign Strategy

#1: Campaign Structure

Webtivity set up the campaign to focus on the client’s main offerings. Special attention is paid to the three main geographical locations the client wants to target. An ad group for each kayak brand allowed for segmentation of targeting. Extensions in Google Ads such as the client’s phone number, address, sitelinks, and others. Extensions help ads stand out from competitor like the example below.

Google Ads Case Study - Extension

#2: Tracking

Campaign targeting is set to focus on conversions. In this case, Webtivity defines conversions as phone calls, phone number clicks and form submissions on the website. These data points are supplemented by client communication in instances where sales could be traced back to the campaign.

#3: Optimization Tactics

Custom landing pages are created where possible for every ad group. Landing pages allow for the targeted ad copy which increases keyword Quality Score leading to a reduction in the cost per click. And increases ad position.

Non-performing keywords are constantly being removed to give producing keywords more ad impressions and increase conversions. New keywords are added based on Webtivity keyword research and the built-in Google Ads Search Terms report.

New ads, text and display, are created on a regular basis. Experiments in different ad copy variations are employed to continually improve ad copy. Lower-performing ad copy is paused as ad options increase.

Google Ads Case Study Results

For accurate result tracking we measured two key metrics. Conversions and cost per conversions. Conversions allow us to track direct actions by advertising visitors that turn into clients. Cost per conversion allows us to show that over time the cost per client decreases due to Webtivity optimization of the campaign.

For our purposes we tracked a six month period to allow for an accurate long term picture. As you can see below conversions increased by 28% while simultaneously cost per conversion went down by 21%!

Google Case Study - Conversions

Case Study Conclusion

Constant maintenance works. Most importantly a solid strategy is only as strong as those executing it. Through constant communication, detailed reporting, and a long term plan to produce results this campaign continues to grow at an exponential rate.

The client is a happy referral from another current client and campaign is ongoing.

This concludes our Google Ads case study. If you are interested in garnering this type of result for your pay per click campaign reach out to us at 941-753-7574 x107 or send us a message here.

 

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Superior Asphalt!

Date posted: April 15, 2020

Superior Asphalt: Rock solid asphalt supplier and paving contractor

Superior AsphaltSuperior Asphalt has built a rock-solid reputation in the Manatee and Sarasota County areas for over a decade. Superior Asphalt builds quality highways, roads, and streets; supplies and sells asphalt to developers and builders; provides grading and milling services; builds sidewalks, curbs, and gutters; and provides expert repairs and renovations for developers, private industry and local, regional, and state public entities. They are recognized by regional leaders as a preferred contractor, road builder, and asphalt provider. They also support our local community through sponsorships and hands-on involvement.

Created with the Superior Asphalt’s vision and mission firmly in mind, this brand new, state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so it is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. Superior Asphalt’s new website focuses on delivering the necessary information their clients might be looking for. It includes a focus on their services to give visitors a wealth of information in a visually pleasing presentation. Asphalt clients rely on reputation, so the focus of the website is on the company, its history, its employees and qualifications. Graphical examples of previous work by the company help to paint a picture in a visitor’s mind.

About Superior Asphalt

Superior Asphalt is recognized as a preferred contractor, road builder, and hot-mix asphalt provider by many of the region’s builders, developers, and government departments of transportation. While many asphalt production companies are concerned about just that—production—Superior Asphalt’s commitment to quality workmanship and superior customer service has resulted in a strong, successful, and trustworthy regional partner and industry leader. For more information, please visit www.superiorasphaltinc.net.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

 

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

 

Superior Asphalt Inc. – Contact

Linda Marino, Accounts Payable/ Administrative Asst.

Phone: 941-755-2850

 

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Referral Reward Program: Tell a Friend About Webtivity Marketing & Design

Date posted: April 9, 2020

Introducing the Webtivity Referral Rewards Program!

Up to $350 credit for your website and digital marketing referrals

referral reward programWe love our clients and thank them for trusting us with their digital marketing needs. There is no greater compliment than when our valued clients refer us to their business friends. These website and digital marketing referrals have been crucial to Webtivity’s success over the years.

To show our appreciation, we have established a referral reward program. When a client refers someone to us and they hire us for their website design and/or digital marketing, the client will receive a credit and the referral will get a discount. So it’s a Win-Win-Win. The client gets a credit. Referral gets a discount. Webtivity gets a new client.

The great thing about the referral reward program is there is no limit to the number of referrals or credits. If you are currently only a website client, you can refer yourself for digital marketing and get both the credit and the discount.

If you are a previous client, no problem. Refer yourself and come back to Webtivity. We don’t hold a grudge. You will receive both the referring credit and referral discount. After that refer others to earn even more credits.

Click here to learn more about our website and digital marketing referral program and refer someone today

We have tried to make it as easy as possible. On the page above you will find an email template as well as a contact form to get in touch with us.

Please note this referral reward program is effective April 8, 2020. While we appreciate past referrals, we unfortunately cannot make this program retroactive.

 

 

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Mobile First Design: The Future of Website Design

Date posted: April 7, 2020

There is a new buzz word around the Internet known as Mobile First Design. But just what is mobile first design and why should you be paying attention? We’ll explore the definition, benefits, and give you actionable steps on how to ensure your website is mobile first in this Webtivity exclusive.

What is Mobile First Design?

Mobile first design is the next iteration of what’s known as responsive web design. This methodology of creating websites ensures that the website size changes and adapts to the size of the screen of the device accessing it. This adaptability allows visitors across various devices, including desktops, to have a seamless experience while visiting your website.

To achieve mobile responsiveness, website designers use two approaches. Progressive advancement, which starts the website design at its most basic, then adds more advanced features while checking backward compatibility across various devices. Or graceful degradation, this method begins with a sophisticated website with all features included subsequently compatibility across devices is achieved working backward.

Progressive advancement is the most straightforward approach to mobile responsiveness. IT is what gave rise to the concept of mobile first. Mobile first assumes that you design a website with mobile device users in mind first. Then more advanced features are added while working towards customizing the mobile first website to other devices with larger screens such as desktops.

Mobile User Trends

Why all the hullabaloo about mobile website visitors? Well, take a look at the graph below.

Mobile First Design

Source: StatCounter

Mobile users currently outnumber desktop users and continue to widen the gap on the Internet. Smartphone sales have consistently outpaced desktop device sales since 2011. It’s readily apparent why. A smartphone is magnitudes cheaper than a computer, and increasingly mobile devices can do almost anything a desktop computer can, albeit slower. Put simply, the future online is mobile. Search engines are aware of this and have reacted accordingly. Websites with a mobile focus get a nice bump in their search engine rankings.

Practicing the Mobile First Doctrine

There are several ways to accomplish the mobile first process. The easier of the two, is to use a theme from a Content Management System such as WordPress.  Newer themes  are  jumping on the mobile first train. From there, all that’s needed is the crack skills of a trusted designer to customize your website. They can ensure all customizations to your liking don’t break the mobile first goal of your website.

The second approach is to build a completely custom website. The custom approach is the harder of the two methods and involves using device mocking apps to design a website that first caters to mobile visitors then slowly adapt it to desktop devices using the progressive advancement approach. We recommend a dedicated designer who is familiar with the needs of various mobile platforms for this technique.

Are you ready to upgrade your website to a mobile first design? Give Webtivity a call at 941-753-7574 or send us a message by clicking here.

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Webtivity Marketing & Design is OPEN

Date posted: April 3, 2020

Webtivity Marketing & Design is OPEN and working from home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We are not doing face-to-face meetings but are available by our support system, phone at 941-753-7574 or 727-386-7216, email, or video conferencing during our regular hours.

Webtivity Marketing & Design is OPEN

This means all of our marketing and website customers will have full access to the Webtivity Team as normal. You will see us posting for our clients and assisting in every way we can. If you need special COVID-19 messaging added to your website, please let us know. We will not be charging you or your monthly support time for this service.

We would like to thank our clients for your understanding during this unprecedented time. As a proud part of the community, we will overcome this together!

Visit some of these helpful links below for some more information:

Stay safe, everyone!

#COVID19 #CoronaVirus #Community #WeComeTogether #Bradenton #StPetersburg #ManateeCounty #PinellasCounty #AloneTogether

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Flash is in the Past!

Date posted: March 24, 2020

In the past, many older websites relied on a program from Adobe called Flash Player to run graphics. Often it was used in homepage pictures, sliders, and all over. Website owners could rely on Flash Player to display information on their business website. But no longer!

Flash Player

As of the start of 2020, Google Chrome has joined the ranks of browsers which no longer support Flash Player. In the cutting-edge world of web design, technology changes and best practices are updated. With newer web development platforms like WordPress, the need for our beloved Flash Player fizzled out. Flash held on as long as it could, but it’s time to remember it fondly and move towards the future, or in this case, the present.

So, what does it mean if you’re still rocking Flash Player on your website? Let’s say you’re using Flash Player as an image or video slider on your homepage like most folks. Now, when someone visits your website, instead of that slider, they’ll see a whole lot of nothing! Is your logo in that Flash file? Do you have important sales information in there? Well, your website visitor is none the wiser. Time to bring your website into this century, or decade at least.

Contact us today to get a free quote on updating your website. A new website will not only get your site up to date, it will help your customers move more easily around your site, and be able to contact you more readily. Not to mention the search engine gains you can receive.

Are you experiencing financial struggles during the era of COVID-19? We’re here for you at Webtivity Marketing & Design. Ask us about how to get monthly terms, and how you can pay off your new website in easy, low, monthly payments.

(941) 753-7574 X107

info@webtivitydesigns.com

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Consolidated Resource Recovery!

Date posted: March 19, 2020

Proven leaders in yard and wood waste recycling

Consolidated Resource RecoveryConsolidated Resource Recovery, Inc. (CRR) offers highly experienced, dependable, adaptable, and environmentally sound land clearing. They provide wood waste recycling services as well as expansive, flexible municipal yard waste intake, processing, and recycling services. CRR operates three large-scale yard and wood waste recycling facilities in the Southwest Florida region, handling tens of thousands of tons of organic yard waste per year for municipalities and private industry.

Created with the Consolidated Resource Recovery’s vision and mission firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so that it’s compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. CCR’s new website focuses on delivering the necessary information their clients might be looking for. It includes videos that show their services in action to paint a picture to potential clients as to their capabilities. Simplicity is prioritized in line with Chris Snow’s lead (Vice President of Corporate Affairs). Chris says, “We highly recommend Webtivity for your webpage creation and hosting needs.”

About Consolidated Resource Recovery

Consolidated Resource Recovery, Inc. (CRR) offers highly experienced, dependable, adaptable, and environmentally sound yard and wood waste recycling services as well as expansive, flexible municipal yard waste intake, processing, and recycling services. For more information, please visit https://www.resourcerecovery.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

 

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Consolidated Resource Recovery – Contact

Christopher Snow, Vice President of Corporate Affairs

Phone: 941-756-0977 x241

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Brand Promotion – How Do You Do It?

Date posted: March 13, 2020

Building a brand isn’t easy. Branding is different from marketing, as marketing aims at encouraging someone to buy a product or service, where branding aims at creating loyalty and building a customer base. So yes, brand promotion is important. There are several key components to successful brand promotion, and yes, marketing is included.

Brand Promotion

Start with your website if your business has one. Be sure it contains relevant, useful content for its visitors, which will keep them coming back for more. Potential customers are more inclined to watch video, so maybe include a how-to video on your site, or a behind the scenes video of daily operations at your place of business.

Use all the social media platforms that are available to you, and that would be useful to your targeted demographic. People spend a lot of time using social media, and it’s free, so take advantage of this free advertising! Keep the message consistent with your brand, and use it towards how it will best suit your business.

Invest in paid marketing. Whether you choose to invest in SEO or PPC ads on Google, or even Facebook advertising, it will be money well spent.  If your brand isn’t the top brand in the area, people won’t know about it and these services will help get your business name out there. The easier it is for people to find you online, the more popular your brand will become.

Keep your brand message consistent across all forms of marketing. Use the same colors, the same fonts, and keep the message the same across all social media platforms, print, video, and on your website. This will make it easier for consumers to associate your brand with your message.

If you’re going to grow, you will need a plan. Effective marketing in today’s world requires reaching out across multiple platforms with an interesting and powerful message, while maintaining cohesive branding and messaging. It’s no small feat because it takes time and a solid marketing partner with experience in online and traditional marketing mediums. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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Webtivity’s Tim Seward Takes the Spotlight

Date posted: March 4, 2020

Featured Member for MYP Monday at The Manatee Chamber of Commerce

(MYP) Manatee Young Professionals is a social and community resource for young professionals, and has served Manatee County under the guidance and administration of The Manatee Chamber of Commerce since 1999. Their initiatives, such as networking & professional development, community service & awareness, and educational opportunities, create great opportunities for young professionals, ages 21-40. Each Monday, MYP selects a member to feature, and we’re proud to say our own Tim Seward was is this week’s pick!

Webtivity’s Tim Seward

Tim is our Business Development Director here at Webtivity, and the back-bone of the sales force. Hailing from just outside of Washington D.C, Tim’s background in customer relations, and account management is extensive. He works closely with our Digital Marketing & Design teams to accomplish our customers’ goals.

While serving his customers’ needs is his number one priority, Tim finds time to enjoy the simple things in life. “Huge dork here! I love Star Trek & Star Wars. I play piano & am a Christmas nutcase!” Finding time for the beach with friends, Tim is passionate about people. When asked by MYP what he was passionate about, he responded, “equality and the truth!” That’s why we keep him upfront and center with our customers at Webtivity.

(MYP) Manatee Young Professionals provides opportunities for its longer-serving members to serve on their Leadership Committee, and Tim is a serving member. Under the Chamber’s supervision, the committee organizes and oversees community service projects, networking events for young professionals, community initiatives, and workforce & education opportunities. This is Tim’s second year serving on the Leadership Committee.

For more information on Tim or to begin a new project, please contact him at tseward@webtivitydesigns.com

For more information and how to get involved with (MYP) Manatee Young Professionals, please visit http://www.myponline.com/

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Manatee Chamber of Commerce!

Date posted: March 3, 2020

Your Business is the Chamber’s Business!

Manatee ChamberThe Manatee Chamber of Commerce is a membership-based organization representing more than 2,000 businesses in Manatee County, Florida. It represents Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto, Parrish, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, and Longboat Key. The oldest business organization in the area, the Manatee Chamber was named the first National Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and was recognized as Chamber of the Year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce an unprecedented four times due to its comprehensive program of work.

Created with the Manatee Chamber’s vision and mission firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so that it’s compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The website highlights the various members of the chamber by making it easy and fast to navigate through the chamber directory. The integration with ChamberMaster works seamlessly with the new updated look. Webtivity worked with Carey to ensure all of the chamber’s requirements were met and exceeded.

About Manatee Chamber of Commerce

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce provides education and networking opportunities, job employment assistance, and small business start-up counseling while working on community issues such as legislation, water, transportation, and general quality of life. For more information, please visit https://www.manateechamber.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

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Activate Your Customer with Content

Date posted: February 28, 2020

What does it mean to activate your customer? It means getting them motivated to make the next step in the customer life cycle. This could mean visiting your website, clicking on an ad, sharing a social media post, and hopefully making a purchase. To activate your customer with content, you need to make them feel attached to your brand, your business. How do you do that?

Activate Your Customer

  1. Create content that resonates with your customer. To do that you need to know who you’re trying to reach.
  2. Know what your customers biggest problems are, and be the one that can solve them.
  3. Know not only your customers biggest fears but also their biggest dreams! Let them know you can conquer them both!
  4. Show your customers that you’re different from the competition. Show them what makes your business unique.
  5. Why would choosing your company create a new opportunity for them?
  6. What makes you the best option? Are you the most efficient? Are you the fastest? Are you the least expensive in town? Are you the closest to them?
  7. Give them proof of what makes YOU the best option. Keep showing them why.

In the digital age, there are so many opportunities to activate your customers with content. Content can be created through blogging, social media, videos, pictures. And these are ways to activate your customers:

  1. How to videos
  2. Tips and tricks
  3. Contests
  4. Ads
  5. Newsletters
  6. EBooks
  7. Infographics
  8. Case Studies

Each customer is different, and each one has a problem that needs solving. By creating all of this content, not only are you activating your customer, but creative content resonates with consumers, so implementing these tips should improve your marketing strategy and help to out perform your competitors.

Your company’s branding and marketing strategies must span consistently across all media channels—and be designed to drive traffic back to your website. Contact Webtivity Marketing & Design to schedule a consultation.

 

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Promote Your Small Business on Facebook

Date posted: February 21, 2020

If you have a small business and it’s not on Facebook, then you’re missing out on a bunch of FREE advertising. Yes, free advertising! Of course, like Google, there are opportunities for paid advertising on Facebook. But every small business should be on social media, especially on Facebook. The most common age of Facebook users is between the ages of 25-29 at 29.7% of users according to Zephoria. This is also the most targeted age for marketers. So why don’t you promote your small business on Facebook? Here’s how to start.

promote your small business on Facebook

First of all, create a Facebook business page. Add all of your important business information; name, contact info, hours, products, website if you have one. Make your profile picture your business logo, and add a cover photo that accurately reflects your business.

Once you’ve created the Facebook page, you need to update it regularly. That means at least once a day. Users like to see behind the scenes photos too, such as employee photos, anniversaries, and things that show off your business. They like pictures and videos, just keep them on brand with what you’re trying to promote. Use Facebook’s free tool “insights” if you’re unsure of what and when to post.

Friends of Fans is Facebook’s “word of mouth”, so encourage people to “check-in” or to tag your business in a post. You can do this by having them check in to receive a discount or tag to enter a contest. When a fan does this, their friends will see this and see your business. Free Advertising!

Create events! Whether it’s a grand opening, a sale, a special tasting, whatever it is, create an event. That event will show up in the events tab, and people will see it. When people are interested in it, or check that they’re going to it, their friends will see that too!

Engage with your fans as well as with other pages. Be sure you’re responding to questions and comments on your page. It’s equally important that your page is interacting with similar pages, as well as local businesses. These actions will help get your business name out there.

If you need some help getting your business set up on Facebook or other social media outlets, Webtivity Marketing & Design has got you covered, reach out to us online or give us a call at (941) 753-7574!

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5 Ways to Build Online Credibility

Date posted: February 18, 2020

What is it that makes a business credible online these days? When businesses are competing for the same space in Google’s SERP’s, often it comes down to which business is more credible. So let’s break down some ways to build online credibility.

Build Online Credibility

Search your business profile online and make sure that not only are all elements filled out accordingly, but that they match, and that they’re interesting to read. Add elements that would make you feel like the business is trustworthy if you were searching, such as pictures, logos, or an address. Include your staff if you have any.

Yes, we’ve said it before but blog. Become an authority – an expert in your field. Don’t just blog, but blog often. Not only does blogging increase your online search engine traffic, but it can also increase your leads, and help to back up your sales pitch if necessary.

Get active on social media accounts. More often than not, after someone finds a business online, they go looking for that business on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If they find an active social media presence, that business automatically gets a leg up on the competition. By being social, you create trust and connect with your online audience. Be authentic, transparent, and be sure to listen and to respond to comments, questions, and reviews in a timely manner.

Highlight what it is that makes YOUR business unique! What makes you stand out? Whether it’s your standards, your warranty, or your timeliness. Whatever it is that makes you different from your competitor, show it, improve upon it, and make sure your customers feel good about choosing your business over another.

Nothing stands out to a potential buyer more than proof of credibility. Proof of credibility can include testimonials from previous clients, any awards your business has received, memberships/badges with credible associations, endorsements from credible sources, and even degrees from academic institutions. The more sources you provide, the more confident you will make potential consumers trust in your business.

If you need help increasing your online credibility in the Bradenton or St. Petersburg area, give us a call or reach out to us online!

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Manatee Technical College

Date posted: February 13, 2020

Manatee’s Premier Post-Secondary Adult, Career, and Technical Education Center!

Manatee Technical CollegeManatee Technical College is a fully accredited post-secondary technical college. MTC offers 50+ workforce training programs in the areas of business, healthcare, public service, marketing, IT, construction, manufacturing & service industries. Students prepare for national industry certifications and state licensure.

Created with Manatee Tech’s educational mission firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology, so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The website focuses on the students and programs that make Manatee Tech the academic nurturing environment it is. Webtivity worked with Damon to ensure all of the company’s requirements were met or exceeded.

About Manatee Technical College

For more than 50 years, MTC has served Southwest Florida by providing innovative high-demand workforce training options that include industry certifications and accreditations to help ensure career success. For more information, please visit https://www.manateetech.edu/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Manatee Technical College – Contact

Valerie Viands, Ed. D. – Director

Phone: 941-751-7900

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Salty Mermaid Real Estate & Vacation Rentals

Date posted: February 5, 2020

 

Anna Maria Island’s Premier Real Estate Provider!

Salty Mermaid Real EstateSalty Mermaid is a full-service real estate and vacation rental office. It specializes in the Gulf Coast Islands of Anna Maria, Longboat Key and Lido Key. Salty Mermaid also services the surrounding areas of Bradenton and Sarasota and enjoys bringing the best of coastal living to its clients. The company is a close-knit group and works together to give each client personalized attention. Their philosophy is to work with integrity and provide market expertise. They want to make the process as easy as possible for anyone so that clients will come back again and again.

Created with Salty Mermaid’s business firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The website features wide shots of videos of Anna Maria Island bringing the image of this paradise directly into the visitor’s mind. Webtivity worked with Liz to ensure all of the company’s requirements were met or exceed.

About Salty Mermaid Real Estate & Vacation Rentals

Salty Mermaid started was founded in 2003 by Elizabeth (Liz) Blandford. She is a top seller in Manatee County with a stellar record for client satisfaction. Salty Mermaid is a full-service real estate and vacation rental office. They specialize in treating visitors like family because they are a family. Their philosophy of hard work and integrity makes it easy to see why they are so successful. For more information please visit https://www.saltymermaidrealestate.com/.

 

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Salty Mermaid Real Estate & Vacation Rentals – Contact

Elizabeth Blandford, Owner/Broker

Phone: 941-254-6131

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You Need to Keep Your Website Fresh, Here’s How to Do It

Date posted: January 30, 2020

There are many reasons to keep a business website fresh. Customers like a fresh website, it gives them reasons to keep coming back to it. Technology is changing daily, which also makes technical reasons for keeping a website fresh. And search engines love fresh websites, so if you’re looking to rank higher in search engines, you need to keep your website fresh.

How do you keep a website fresh?

There are quite a few different ways to keep a website fresh. Because technology and design are constantly evolving, if your site was designed a few years ago, chances are it needs an upgrade. Not only is it outdated, but even if it was popular a few years ago, it probably isn’t mobile friendly (which is a must these days) and it probably isn’t very SEO friendly. It is worth it to invest in an upgrade.

keep your website fresh

Check your website from time to time for broken links. For example if you have linked to another business, or blog, perhaps they have gone out of business or changed something. If that link is no longer working it will show up as an error or a broken link leading your consumer to go elsewhere.

Google keeps track of how fresh your website is. If you increase the size or footprint of your website each year, Google will reward you for being “fresher” than other sites. You can increase your footprint by creating new pages.

It’s also important to update the content on the pages already on your website. This can be done by adding content, adding links to other areas of your website, or by adding photos to your page. You can also change the ALT tags on your photos. This is important because SEO rules are always changing, so the ALT text that was once there, might not be important SEO wise any longer.

Keep your website fresh

Creating a blog is a great way to update your website. Not only does a blog keep your website fresh, when blogging about things your target market is interested in and searching for, it will attract new visitors. See our post on blogging. You can always repurpose a blog and update it too. Just don’t rename the URL, or you will lose all the SEO benefits gained from it.

Keep in mind that keeping your website fresh will benefit you. It will benefit your search engine traffic, your rank, and help to generate more traffic. If you lack the time to do this, it’s worth it to consider a professional marketing team and web designer to do these tasks for you. If you’re looking for a fresh website, we’d love to hear from you!

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10 Things to Know About Online Reputation Management

Date posted: January 27, 2020

Owning a business today, is ten times harder than it was ten years ago. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire with the popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Maintaining your reputation across these mediums is important, and requires strict diligence. A little effort goes a long way. Here are 10 things to know about online reputation management.

Online Reputation Management

  • It’s important for your business to be present across all types of internet properties. This begins with having a website.
  • Create social media accounts for your business, this should include all the major ones such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Keep them active, and engage with your followers to help build trust.
  • Claim your business on Google My Business, Yelp, and anywhere consumers might be leaving reviews. For example if you’re in the travel industry, you’d want to consider Trip Advisor as well.
  • Blog on your company website. Not only will it improve your company’s rankings for SEO, but it goes a long way in building your company’s reputation.
  • It’s important to listen to what’s being said about your business. Listen through social media, listen online, and listen to your business reviews. Like mentioned above, today word of mouth spreads like wildfire! All it takes is a quick Google search and anyone can see what is being said about your business. You don’t want to be driving potential customers to the competitor.
  • Respond to all reviews, but be sure to apologize when responding to negative reviews. Do this publicly, then you can take it offline and come to a resolution. But by being transparent with your apology, it can help to bring the situation to a close. Be sure that the apology is authentic, consumers can see right through nonsense, and with the amount of  competition out there, they will be quick to take their business elsewhere.
  • Whatever you do, don’t get into an argument with customers online. It only makes your business look bad. Like mentioned above, take it offline. Ask them to call you, or send you a direct message. You’ve still shown that you’re addressing the problem. Showing your professionalism is more important than proving you’re right.
  • Focus on customer service. Customers will notice how you treat them, and that is key to building a great reputation. They will be more apt to forgive mistakes if they’re treated well.
  • Ask your customers for reviews. You can also leave signs at your counter, leave links at the bottom of emails or receipts. When you receive reviews, post them to your website and social media accounts.
  • Not only do the number of quality reviews matter when potential customers are looking to do business with you, but it matters how current the reviews are. This is why it is important to keep a steady stream of reviews coming in.

Remember, the major review sites have steps in place for inaccurate reviews. If you have a review from someone who was not a customer, you do have the right to flag it as inappropriate, or in violation of the site’s guidelines. For help maintaining your online reputation for your business, contact us. Webtivity is here for you.

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Benefits of Blogging for your Business

Date posted: January 23, 2020

Blogging is one of the most inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website, and bring brand awareness to your business. Not only that, but blogging is a great way to market and distribute information about your business. There are so many benefits of blogging for your business, but here are just a few.

benefits of blogging

Blogging for your business is easy. Blogging is just a collection of thoughts or facts. When you’re trying to promote your business, put together some thoughts or facts, and post it on your website. Your consumers want to learn more about you, your business, and things your business is selling, so it’s the perfect way to get that information out there!

Blogging is also a great way to boost your ranking in search engines. In fact, search engines love it when businesses blog! When a business creates a blog on a consistent basis, they’re giving Google, Yahoo, Bing, and any other search engines brand new content to index. Search engines LOVE new content! It also gives businesses a chance to utilize keywords that consumers are using to search for them in those search engines.

Benefits of Blogging

 

Blogging also shows that you’re a subject matter expert in your field, which builds trust with your consumers. If you give out good advice, you’ll be the go-to in your field. This can make you stand out from your competitors. It can also help you develop a deeper bond with your readers.

One of the biggest benefits of blogging is to provide value to your readers. If your blog includes tips or how-to advice to make their life easier, it’s much more interesting for them to read,  than to read a constant sales pitch type blog. You’re increasing loyalty by providing them with free advice, which will likely have them choose your company over a competitor when they’re looking to make a purchase or need a service.

Finally, each time you create a blog post, you create an opportunity for your blog to be shared with others. It is free marketing, proving even more that your business is credible!

If you don’t have time to blog yourself, don’t worry, Webtivity has a copywriting team here in St. Petersburg and Bradenton to help work with you to create informative posts for your business!

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See the Benefit of Using the Same SEO and Web Design Company

Date posted: January 20, 2020

After creating a successful business, you want a successful website launch. Not only does that mean having a website that performs well and looks appealing, it also means having a website prepared for the best search engine results as possible. This is why there is a benefit of using the same SEO and web design company for your website.

SEO and Web Design Company

Using a company that provides both SEO and Web Development services enables the website designer to work with the marketing department to ensure that your new website gets off to a great start. The marketing department will use their trade secrets to improve your website’s search results from the get go. Many people don’t realize that there can be errors in your site that can only be seen by search engines, these errors will impact your potential rank and if your web design company isn’t up to date on the latest SEO trends, you’re hurting your search results online before your site is even launched.

With this in mind, there are specific tasks the marketing department needs to have in place prior to the launch of the website. By working hand in hand with the web designer, this process flows seamlessly between the two, rather than going back and forth between a few different companies. Or even worse, after the website has been launched.

When these steps are taken prior to the launch of your website, Google will index your website and begin ranking it at the launch, rather than at a later date, which is better for you. Not doing these in tandem with the launch can be costly, and sometimes those precious moments can never be recovered.

By using the same team, not only are the team members familiar with each other, there’s already a process in place. They are experienced with communicating with each other, and they can respond quickly should any problems arise.

It doesn’t matter how great your website looks or functions—if no one can find you online you simply don’t exist. Show your business to the world with Webtivity Marketing & Design! Click here to request a consult.

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Queens Gate Resort

Date posted: January 8, 2020

The Perfect Family Friendly Choice to Explore the White Sandy Beaches of Anna Maria Island

Queens Gate ResortQueens Gate Resort is located in Bradenton Beach, the southern municipality of the island, and home of the famous little downtown called  “Bridge Street, “ where there are excellent dining options, shopping, and a little nightlife along with miniature golfing for everyone and City pier!

Queens Gate Resort is full of old-world charm in a quint and relaxing atmosphere. In a lush, tropical, peaceful setting, reminiscent of days gone by, guests are welcomed with warm, friendly, personal attention.  Guests are encouraged to enjoy the private courtyard, barbeque area, and furnished, lighted pavilion, the centerpiece of the resort.

Created with Queens Gate Resort’s atmosphere firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The website features breathtaking images that truly capture the spirit of Queens Gate Resort’s place as the jewel of Anna Maria Island accommodations. Webtivity worked with Kathy to ensure all of the company’s requirements were met or exceeded. Kathy had this to say about her experience working with Webtivity, “Brian was extremely helpful and a pleasure to work with every step of the way!”

About Queens Gate Resort

Queen’s Gate Resort on lovely Anna Maria Island is just a few sandy steps from their private portion of the Gulf of Mexico’s most magnificent beach. Stroll, bike, drive or trolley through 7 miles of paradise. Abundant activities on air, land, and water..it’s all here! Choose from efficiencies, cottages, and a two-bedroom house cheerfully decorated, with all the necessities and lots of amenities including free wireless Internet and heated pool. For more information, please visit https://www.queensgateresort.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services, including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Queens Gate Resort – Contact

Kathy Wooten, General Manager

Phone: 941-778-7153

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Does my Website Need to be ADA Compliant?

Date posted: January 3, 2020
  1. What is ADA Compliance?
  2. What are the Dangers of Being Non-compliant?
  3. Who is Most at Risk of Legal Challenges?
  4. What are the Benefits to Being ADA Compliant?
  5. How to Test for Being ADA Compliant
  6. How to Become ADA Compliant in 5 Easy Steps
  7. The Future of ADA Compliance

What is ADA Compliance?

ADA CompliantWhat is ADA? ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It became law in 1990 with a stated goal to stop discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The ADA has five main components, known as Titles.

For our purposes, Title III of the ADA deals with public accommodations and commercial facilities that include websites. Title III is enforced as a strict liability law by the U.S. Department of Justice. That means there are little to no excuses to be uncompliant.

Web accessibility is an evolving set of requirements with no formal agreed-upon set of standards. Although not legally sourced, courts have referenced WCAG 2.0 in cases involving the ADA.

What are the Dangers of Being Non-compliant?

As of now, the Department of Justice has not independently pursued website owners for being Title III uncompliant. However, individuals affected by perceived non-compliant websites have sued website owners pursuing injunctive relief (e.g., for the company to make its website ADA accessible) and attorneys’ fees.

ADA lawsuits have shown a marked increase in the past few years. 2017 saw 814 ADA lawsuits while 2018 saw that number rise to 2285 cases. Although 2019 numbers are not out yet, it will exceed 2018.

Who is Most at Risk of Legal Challenges?

The rise in ADA related cases has led increasingly to more and more industries being affected. Due to their close interactions with the general publiada non-compliantc, certain industries present more vulnerable targets to ADA legal action.

Top industries targeted by ADA lawsuits include real estate, retail, travel, entertainment, and foodservice. The list keeps growing as precedents keep being set by previous cases.

A significant portion of the cases, 55%, in 2019 settled within just 60 days. It is often uneconomical to fight these legal challenges and come out victoriously.

What are the Benefits to Being ADA Compliant?

 

ada ideaBeing ADA compliant is first and foremost a positive development in our pursuit to be a more inclusive society. Every company with an online presence should strive to accommodate as many of its visitors as possible. ADA compliance is simply a continuation of good customer service extended to a larger audience.

ADA compliance forces a website to comfort to the highest Search Engine Optimization standards. The increased rankings will garner more business for compliant websites.

Disabled and other users alike view brands with compliant websites in a more positive light compared to their inaccessible counterparts. Websites built with WCAG guidelines tend to be easier to navigate, increasing positive user experience.

Finally, making efforts to be ADA compliant will protect website owners from being on the wrong end of legal action.

How to Test for Being ADA Compliant

It remains incredibly difficult to ensure full ADA compliance. The WCAG is a best-case scenario set of guidelines.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains a list of tools that can assist in ascertaining the level of WCAG compliance. They do not claim that any single tool is representative of fulfilling all of the guidelines’ requirements.

A full evaluation of every page of a website is the only approach that ensures that all parts meet the WCAG guidelines.

How to Become ADA Compliant in 5 Easy Steps

Easy here is subjective. The steps to make a website ADA compliant are simple yet require huge amounts of labor depending on the size of a website.

  1. Review the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines. Webtivity recommends the latest iteration; WCAG 2.1.
  2. Use one of the tools listed at the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List section of the World Wide Web Consortium. We recommend the WAVE Web Accessibility Tool.
  3. Build your website’s content with the best practices in mind. Break up content by headings and sub-headings. Keep content conversational. Google has decent recommendations on how to go about doing this throughout a website.
  4. Use a website color scheme that makes use of heavy contrasts instead of lighter or blended colors. WebAIM has a handy contract checking tool to help in picking colors.
  5. Evaluate your website code. Have a developer clean and sanitize website code to meet the highest web standards. Screen readers and other accessibility tools have a hard time handling outdated or overly complicated code and scripts. Webtivity recommends Isobar Front-end Code Standards.

The Future of ADA Compliance

future of adaThe future of web ADA compliance is a contentious subject. The first major case to go to trial, Gil. V. Winn Dixie is still working its way through the courts. The Plaintiff, Juan Carlos Gil, won in a lower court; however Winn Dixie appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. That opinion is due to be issued in the next few months.

Depending on the results, the current legal environment will change in terms of the legal culpability of ADA compliance. However, this is likely to be limited to specific websites; in this case, retailers with physical fronts.

ADA compliance is here to stay. It behooves any website, specifically public-facing websites, to endeavor to be as compliant as possible to web accessibility standards.

Is your website ready to be ADA compliant? Webtivity Marketing & Design is here to guide you through the process of ensuring your website conforms to the highest web standards.

Reach out to us at (941) 753-7574 or send us a message for an immediate answer.

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Complete General Contracting Group

Date posted: January 2, 2020

Class “A” General Contractor Serving the Entire State of Florida!

Complete General Contracting GroupAt Complete General Contracting Group, we are devoted to the highest quality workmanship and customer satisfaction. We understand the importance and value of maintaining trustworthy and accountable relationships with our clients. We have been in business since 1984.

Now that we have over 6,500 completed projects, we have evolved into a multifaceted company. As a one-stop single source restoration contractor, we have the facilities, the people, and the experience to meet your restoration needs. The owners of Complete General Contracting Group are licensed General Contractors with a Structural Aluminum Specialty license as well as Certified Glass and Glazing contractors. We are fully insured and bondable.

Created with Complete General Contracting Group’s business firmly in mind, this brand new state of the art website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The website features an easy navigational menu to all of CGC’s services as well as an accompanying photo gallery to act as a virtual showroom for visitors. We worked with Christine to ensure all of the company’s requirements were met or exceeded. Christine had this to say about her experience working with Webtivity, “we have been using Webtivity for our Website for years and the service has been incredible.”

About Complete General Contracting Group

Complete General Contracting Group started more than 35 years ago as a residential aluminum and door company working all over the state, primarily with most of the restoration and painting contractors in southwest Florida. We provided all of their aluminum and glass needs (replacement of railing, screen wall, shutters, windows, and doors). 20 years ago, we became a Class A General Contractor, allowing us to move into the concrete, waterproofing, and paint side of the industry. For more information please visit https://www.completegeneralcontracting.com/.

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

Complete General Contracting Group – Contact

Christine White, Field Secretary

Phone: 941-379-9886

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Out of the Blue Yacht Charters

Date posted: December 16, 2019

 

 

Southern Hospitality Comes to the Seas!

Out of the Blue Yacht ChartersWith an extensive knowledge of the industry and first-hand experience as a charter crew throughout the Caribbean, your Out of the Blue Yacht Charter Broker, Renee Sawyer is the key to a successful and unforgettable cruising vacation. She researches charter yachts, crews and the markets daily. Out of the Blue Yacht Charters can offer you advice about every component of your charter, from the most suitable yacht to the best destinations and itineraries. Renee, the owner, has extensive knowledge of charter destinations and will be able to advise you on the best places to go.

Renee says “this website will ultimately serve our business and future customers to obtain the BEST possible Yacht Charter vacation available.”

Created with the user experience firmly in mind, the website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The site includes extensive imagery to accentuate the experience visitors are expecting when they think of a yacht getaway. Renee’s experience is highlighted throughout the website to draw attention to her expertise as the owner/operator.

 

About Out of the Blue Yacht Charters:

We attend the industries best charter yacht shows to meet the crews and inspect the vessels for the fine details our guests will be looking for. We research the best yachts, crews and locations in the industry by capitalizing on our extensive network and industry contacts. We eagerly make sure you are fully prepared for your dream vacation. We will ask you lots of questions to make sure that we have covered every detail that you want for your amazing vacation. For more information please visit https://www.outoftheblueyachtcharters.com/.

 

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

 

Webtivity Marketing & Design – Contact

Tim Seward, Business Development Director

101 Riverfront Boulevard | Suite 650

Bradenton, FL 34205

Phone: 941-753-7574 x107

 

Out of the Blue Yacht Charters – Contact

Renee Sawyer, Owner/Operator

Phone: 941-981-9842

Cell: 757-759-8960

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Make Your Location Page Work for Your Business Website

Date posted: November 18, 2019

Location Page

Every business is trying to jump to the top of Google’s search results. With everyone vying for that top spot, it’s important to take each page of your business website, and position it for the best results possible.  People are always searching for something “near me” and you can’t just keyword load “near me” or “close to me” in all the pages of your website. Here are some tips to make your location page work harder for your business website.

Business Name, Address, and Phone Number

Be sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number appear exactly the same as it does on your Google My Business Profile, as well as all other citations you have claimed.

Photos

Include photos in your location page, with correct ALT tags. Don’t just have outdoor photos, have photos showing the interior of your business as well. This allows potential customers to see what to expect when they arrive. Exterior photos should include your sign, a parking lot, as well as nearby businesses; this is especially helpful for new businesses and if your business is in a strip mall.

Describe Business Location

Include your business location, and what makes your location unique. If you have several locations, don’t just copy and paste the same info while changing out the city.

CTA (Call to Action) Options

Use CTA’s which are helpful to the user such as directions with a link to Google Maps, a link to request an appointment, a button to shop now, or a call now button.

Directions

When you’re including directions to your business, it’s an excellent way to add some geographically specific keywords to your page.

Optimize for SEO

Be sure to optimize the location page for SEO. This includes images, the title, and the meta data of course. The meta data will be used for the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), so it should include your brand, the location keyword, as well as your keyword; all of which should have been in the title too. The meta data allows a bit more space for extra selling tips!

Your website is your 24/7 sales tool so your website must be ready to receive visitors and convert traffic into sales. We work with you to understand how you approach your business and industry, your customer acquisition tactics, and most importantly your competitors and how you position yourself against them. With this information we solidly position your business online and become your partner in success.

Show your business to the world with Webtivity Marketing & Design!

 

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You Set Up Your Facebook Business Page, Now What?

Date posted: October 21, 2019

Facebook Business Page

It’s important for your business to have a Facebook Business Page, but how do you utilize it to your best advantage now that you have it set up? Facebook is constantly evolving to give business owners the opportunity to market themselves better, so what better way to market yourself than by putting yourself out there on this giant?

The size of your business doesn’t matter. Your business can be big or small, what does matter is setting your brand up for success by getting your business out there, and keeping up with the times. Facebook is a great tool to help keep your customers in-the-know when it comes to new products, events, and growing your audience.

Here are some marketing tips to help you utilize your Facebook Business Page:

Audience

Know who your Facebook audience is. Facebook has a built in tool called Audience Insight which can give you useful information about your targeted audience to help you maximize your ad budget so you can target people who are more likely to become customers. You can also tailor content towards your audience by posting with the right tone and at the right times.

Strategy

Your Facebook Business Page won’t become an overnight success. This takes time and work. Do your homework and research to be sure that you’re not wasting clicks in the wrong places.

Free Marketing

Think of your Facebook Business Page as a free marketing avenue. This page helps people get to know your brand, your services and offerings by what you’re posting and sharing. What you’re sharing should be useful to them, and connected to your business.

Content

Post engaging content and on a regular basis. Posts with either an image or a video receive two times the engagement than those with text alone.

Monitor

It is very important that you monitor your page on a daily basis, this way you can respond to comments, questions, and messages in a timely manner. People love interacting with the brands they love. Even negative comments are good, because when you respond to them, it helps you to improve, and it shows your audience they can trust you.

Hopefully with these tips you can begin to find that Facebook can be an essential marketing channel for your business. For more information about Webtivity’s marketing programs, click here.

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The Secret Behind a Successful SEO Campaign

Date posted: August 19, 2019

Driving traffic to your website is the goal of any successful SEO campaign, while there aren’t any real secrets, there are some essential elements to a successful SEO campaign. Here are some helpful tips to get you there.

Successful SEO Campaign

  • Who is your target audience? If you don’t know who you are targeting, you can’t position your campaign for success. So the first step in a successful campaign is determining your target audience.
  • Most people today are shopping on the go, therefore they are using mobile devices. Your campaign must be mobile friendly and be using voice search terms which lead to mobile friendly pages on your website. Reaching people where they are at will be difficult if your site and campaign aren’t optimized for mobile.
  • Keyword optimization is important when you’re trying to target specific audiences. Use target keywords, and phrases which will help people find your relevant information. Keyword research is an important tool to use prior to launching any campaign.
  • Optimize meta titles, and meta descriptions to the relevant content of each page of your website, complete with the target keywords of that page. This is important as the meta title is what is displayed in the SERP.
  • One of the best tactics to get search engines to recognize and reward your website is with fresh content. The easiest way to add content to your site is with blogs. Be sure blogs are optimized for SEO, and shared on social media sites for optimum reach.
  • A good link building strategy is an important part of any successful SEO campaign. This is how your website can reach a larger audience. Having a good number of backlinks helps to bring new traffic, as well as brand authority to your website.
  • As your online presence grows, it is very important to respond to reviews, both the good and the bad. This will not only help your reputation, but help increase your online ranking. Customers can offer you the best, free advertising in the world.
  • Social media is a great platform to help convey your message and passions to potential and existing customers. It’s free, make sure you’re utilizing it.
  • If you’re putting all this work and effort into SEO, make sure you’re making use of the reports and analytics that are available. You want to see the success of your campaigns, and see where you can improve.

No matter how great your website looks, if it isn’t well positioned in search engines, it won’t attract customers. Learn more about the SEO Campaigns Webtivity Designs offers in the Bradenton and St. Petersburg Florida areas.

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Fact vs Fiction: Facebook Friend Request Is A Hacker

Date posted: August 12, 2019

We’ve all seen them, in fact I saw one yesterday. !!!!!! Do not accept friend request from XXXXXX XXXXX she’s a hacker!!!!! But is it true? What will really happen if you accept a friend request from someone you don’t know? They will have access to your personal information (which you shouldn’t allow anyway), but if someone tells you a Facebook friend request is a hacker, does thaty really mean they will hack your computer and all of your Facebook friends’ computers? Let’s find out.

Facebook Friend Request is a Hacker

What’s mentioned above is actually a hoax and it has been running around Facebook for quite a bit of time. And while it is true that there are people out there copying profile images and names, posing as an individual, in effect creating a duplicate account, going through and requesting all of your friends again, they aren’t hackers.

Snopes provides several examples of what this hoax look like below:

  • Do not {read / open / respond to / join}
  • an {e-mail / text message / friend request / }
  • Sent by {real name / e-mail address / screen name}!
  • If you do, {you / your computer / your Facebook account / everyone on your contact list / your children}
  • Will be in danger of falling victim to a {serial killer / computer virus / hacker / predator}.

 

These messages are circulated around and around with names swapped out randomly. And with names you would know, making you more likely to believe the hoax.

One of the most widely used hoaxes is to not accept friend requests from hackers named Christopher XXXXXX and Jessica XXXXX or they will somehow figure out your computer’s ID and address.

If you open a message that contains a link, NEVER click on it. This goes for anything, a message, an email message, even if it isn’t coming from a hoax like this. Always go to the source. Links can contain a virus which can infect your computer, and can gain access to bank accounts and so much more.

There was another hoax involving all the major internet email players like Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo and others. Microsoft and Norton sent users an email warning them they might receive an email titled “Mail Server Report”. Advising them that when they opened it, they would get a disturbing message stating that “It is too late now, your life is no longer beautiful.” Users would lose everything in their computer. They were asked to pass it on immediately.

Subsequently there were different variations of this in Italy, West Africa, and again in the United States.

The bottom line is that this will continue, these are hoaxes, they’re scare tactics. Don’t spread the fire. Don’t open anything suspicious, and especially, don’t click on any links!

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Why Flash is Bad for Business Websites

Date posted: August 9, 2019

adobe is badAdobe Flash had a great run. It was the most popular way to insert animations, games, videos, and other rich features into a website for a significant part of the Internet’s existence. For a substantial amount of time, it was the only option website creators had to create a dynamic, visually pleasing website. However, that time has passed. Adobe Flash is bad for not only websites but business. So what brought us here? What are the causes of Flash’s fall from grace? Webtivity Marketing & Design will delve into the myriad of reasons why Flash is bad for business.

Adobe Flash’s Background

The now deprecated Adobe Flash produced rich media internet applications such as mobile games, mobile applications, animations, audio, and even video applications. The main difference between Flash and its predecessors was the ability of the user to interact with the animations. Website visitors could click, type, and manipulate the Flash window creating an amalgam of results that drew users into the website. That level of interactivity was previously unknown to the World Wide Web that led it to be one of the most popular applications to include in a website.

Why Flash is Bad for Business

Flash has been on the decline for years now. Alternatives such as HTML5, WebGL, and Web Assembly have been the go-to methods for animating content for going on a decade now. Major browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer have not been loading Flash applications automatically for years! It is known for causing an innumerable amount of security flaws that place users at risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous websites. Search engines now penalize you for having flash applications, mobile devices can now barely load it, and most mobile devices have done away with it completely. Flash is now outdated to the point where Google Chrome will now no longer load it starting in 2020 regardless of user preference.

Flash is Bad for Business, But Now What?

It’s time to update your website if you still have Flash applications on it. You are losing rankings against your competitors in search engines by the minute. You’re losing business from users who visit your website and run into the error you see below. Would you do business with a business whose website presents you that error? Most importantly, are you going to go through all of those actions just to see the rest of the website?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad Flash Solution

An updated website does NOT have to break the bank. Thanks to Webtivity’s revamped website design packages, you can now have the best of both worlds: a brand new website, at an affordable price.

Reach out to Tim at (941) 753-7574 or send us a quick message for a swift rundown of your options.

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Marcia’s Music Studio

Date posted: August 1, 2019

Experienced Piano Teacher Joins Cyberspace!

Marcia Powell teaches piano lessons in Clearwater, FL and just so happens to be our Business Development Director’s piano guru. Marcia was looking to establish herself online and create a landing zone for those looking for a piano teacher in the Pinellas County area. She also wanted the capability to update the website internally, so the WordPress platform was recommended for the project.

Webtivity Launches new website

 

Created with the user experience firmly in mind, the website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers & mobile devices. The site includes extensive student testimonials and photography to provide a more detailed overview into Marcia’s musical ability and teaching prowess.

 

About Marcia’s Music Studio:

Marcia’s Music Studio provides piano lessons to all ages. From the young beginner to the older one, from the novice to the pro, Marcia delivers outstanding lesson material & tweaks her tailors training techniques to each individual student.  Her many years of experience and passion for her art shine through in her demeanor with students and results in their learning. Marcia also loves to accompany singers in shows and parties. Her accompanist services are also available upon request.  For more information please visit https://www.marciasmusicstudio.com/.

 

About Webtivity Marketing & Design:

Webtivity Marketing & Design, a Bradenton & St. Petersburg based company, serves clients throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Webtivity provides website design/development and cross-media marketing services including search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, and branding/identity services. Using a consultative approach, Webtivity works with clients to develop an effective marketing strategy based on their business, customers, competition, and budget.  For more information, please visit www.webtivitydesigns.com.

 

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Facebook is Changing Mobile Media Aspect Ratio and Text

Date posted: July 22, 2019

mobile media aspect ratioWith all the focus being placed on mobile, here are some important changes that are coming for mobile devices. Facebook is changing the mobile media aspect ratio.  This is the proportional relationship between the width and the height for both photos and videos which are shown in the news feed on mobile devices. Additionally, Facebook is limiting the amount of text that is shown in a mobile news feed post.

Here are the new specs you need to be aware of if you’re optimizing posts for Mobile Facebook Newsfeeds.
Aspect Ratios for Photos and Video:

  • The maximum height for both photos and videos is being reduced from a 2:3 aspect ratio to a shorter 4:5 in the mobile news feed.
  • Media which is taller than 4:5 will be hidden, meaning users will have to tap on it to see it in full.
  • There will be less text shown in mobile news feed posts, dropping from 7 lines of text down to 3 lines of text. Users will be prompted to “click to view” additional text for posts containing more than 3 lines of text.

Facebook says these changes are “designed to simplify our formats and improve the consistency of our mobile experience.”

These changes will be effective on August 19th, 2019. It might not seem like a big change, but as mentioned above, with the majority of users being mobile users, it will change their experience, so it’s important to think about how text and photos are formatted going forward. This allows for a few weeks of adjusting to formatting media shorter, and with fewer lines of text.

Facebook is always changing things up, Webtivity is here to keep you informed and up to date with all the latest marketing and web design trends in this ever evolving world wide web! If you’d like to learn more, request a consult.

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Check out our Brand New Web Design & SEO Packages

Date posted: July 12, 2019

 

 

 

Looking for a fresh website?
Need more hits on Google?

Check out our Brand New Web Design & SEO Packages – for EVERY  budget!

Check out our brand new Web Design & SEO Packages! Start with a redesigned website and roll right into a digital marketing campaign AND get a refreshed website EVERY 3 YEARS! – at ONE monthly fee!
Click below to find out more.



Look Your Best & Be your Best! It’s Important!

It is commonly accepted that websites should be refreshed about every 3 years. This is because search engines like Google reward websites with fresh, clean code & design elements like mobile-responsiveness and others. Keeping an old website is actually hurting you online. ‘Points’ are also given to websites with fresh content. How do you get all this done & run your business? – We’re here to help!

Starting with a fresh website, you’ll be ready to make some headway online. What good is your website if it’s not working FOR you? Get your online presence going with WordPress & Webtivity!

Starting with the Small-Business Owner in mind, the Economy plan is your start to success online, we wrap it up with the Platinum plan, meant to reach a regional to national audience. Click on the table above to see the full thing!

Still not sure what SEO is? Not sure why a fresh website is even important? Click below to learn more about digital marketing & why your business needs it!

What is SEO anyway?

 

JUST need Web Design??

Click here to get a custom quote!

 

JUST need Marketing??

Click here to get a custom quote!

 

 

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Webtivity Named a Leading Web Design Agency in the United States

Date posted: December 6, 2018

leading web design agency in the USWe are proud to announce that we have been named a leading web design agency in the United States for 2018 by Clutch!  You may recall earlier in the year they also named us one of the top digital marketing and SEO companies in the greater Tampa area as well!

Here at Webtivity Design Solutions, we’re very proud of our accomplishments, but recognition isn’t our goal, albeit nice to see our hard work recognized. Our goal is to continue to improve, and to provide the top quality service our clients have been accustomed to for almost 20 years now.

Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or contact us for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business design the website you’ve always dreamed of, and achieve all of your digital marketing goals!

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Free Website Marketing Analysis Giveaway

Date posted: August 1, 2018

Free Website Marketing AnalysisWe, Webtivity Marketing & Design, love giving back wherever we can!

With this in mind we are offering, for a limited time only, 5 free website marketing analysis reports to a lucky few businesses that are looking to grow their profits.

We only have 5 website marketing analysis reports to give away so act fast to take advantage of this one of a kind opportunity.

Website marketing analysis reports will be given away on a first come first serve basis now until the end of the month.

This is our way of giving back to a community that has given us so much.

Reach out to Tim at 941-753-7574 ext. 107 or shoot us a quick message for more information on this limited time opportunity.

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How to Grow Your Business with Geofencing in 2018

Date posted: May 4, 2018

It’s 2018 and you, as a business owner, are inundated with offers and tools to grow your business in the digital arena. One of the newcomers on the digital marketing field is a method called geofencing. But just what is geofencing and how can you use it to grow your business? Webtivity Marketing & Design will endeavor to give you a solid grasp on just what geofencing entails and more importantly how to apply geofencing capabilities to grow your business.

What is geofencing?

Gegeofencingofencing in definition refers to several different technologies whose main goal is creating a virtual perimeter around a specifically defined geographical area. There are several ways to enact a geofence with some methods requiring proprietary physical technology known as beacons to using GPS, Wi-Fi, radio frequency identification (RFID) or even increasingly social media tags. Once you have a geographical area virtually defined or geofenced, you can target users in this area with promotional offers or other types of useful client facing information.

Taking Advantage of Geofencing

The biggest draw to geofencing targeting for most businesses is the ability to lower advertising costs. Simply put your typical entrepreneurial business owner is not looking to compete with national or even statewide retailers. Instead savvy business owners look to reach the potential client that is nearby. This is in part what makes geofencing so cost effective, the ability to reduce competing voices, or ad dollars, to the minimalist of levels.

There is one additional benefit of geofencing targeting however that often goes overlooked. Geofencing can also be used offensively as well as defensively. Defensively it can help reduce the ad noise that most users experience on their various digital access points. As our world becomes overwhelmed with more and more information, it is becoming increasingly easier to target not only nearby potential clients but those close to competitors as well.

Getting started with Geofencing

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the various methods you can use to take full advantage of geofencing for your own business enterprise. There are several advertisers or providers that use proprietary devices known as beacons to create a virtual geographical area using these devices. Unfortunately this usually involves considerable cost and upkeep to manage and is usually priced out of range for most small to medium sized businesses.

The relatively new method of geofencing uses established advertising platforms that have already done most of the leg work of crating geofences for you. These services such as Google Adwords and Facebook include features that target specific areas around you or your competitor’s business using GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile device location from apps and other methods that are collected by these big players. They then offer these options as part of their possible client targeting matrix.

Webtivity Geofencing Services

webtivity google partnerWebtivity Marketing and Design has been providing digital marketing services since 1999. From link building, to blogging, to website design and digital advertising, including geofencing targeting we do it all.

Have we mentioned that we are a Certified Google Partner Agency? Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or contact us for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business achieve all of your geofencing and overall marketing goals!

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Webtivity Named One of The Top Digital Marketing Companies in the Tampa Bay Area

Date posted: April 19, 2018

Top Digital Marketing CompanyWe are proud to announce that we have been named one of the top digital marketing, SEO and branding companies in the greater Tampa area by Clutch! Clutch is a trusted B2B ratings and reviews firm that evaluates regional top-performing companies based on services offered, client feedback, work quality and market presence.

We at Webtivity Marketing & Design strive to always deliver top quality service to all of our clients and inquirers alike. This service centered focus began with our founding in 1999 and has been the cornerstone of our internal company compass as well as the raison d’etre of our success!

Although we don’t do it for the recognition it gives us great pleasure to see others recognize our customer centric approach to digital marketing.

Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or contact us for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business achieve all of your digital marketing goals!

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Improve Your Site’s Google Ranking

Date posted: February 26, 2018

We all want to be at the top of a Google search. The closer to the top of a Google search you are, the more customers will be able to find your business. Luckily, there are some ways to boost your Google ranking, thus increasing web traffic to your site.

Adding a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

Google has been talking about this for a while. We all want to shop and surf the internet safely. One of the best things you can do to increase your ranking on google is to get an SSL certificate added. Google recently announced that July 2018 will be that date that for all unsecured sites, Chrome will display a warning label of “not secure” in the address bar. This is a sure fire way to get people not only to not use your site, but to have google not promote your site as well. More than 50% of internet users use chrome for their browser.
google ranking
Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Version Market Share

Get a Mobile Website

More than 50% of internet users are using a mobile device in the last 12 months! Only 44% used desktops, and less than 5% used tablets. You are losing potential business if your site isn’t mobile friendly. Making your site mobile friendly will not only boost your google ranking, but will improve users’ experience. When people are making the buying decision, more often than not they’re using a mobile device. Currently, desktop and mobile search results on Google are indexed together. Google recently said that soon they will be moving sites to a “mobile-first index”. While they won’t say exactly when, it is coming.

 

google ranking
Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Platform Comparison Market Share

Blogging

Google wants to see that your site is not only dynamic, but that it is updated often. This is easily done though publishing blog posts. Regularly updating your site with blog posts will not only increase your Google ranking, but by putting out this new content, it will draw customers back to your site.

Link Building

Link building takes time, so it’s important to start your link building work when your website is launched. Google wants to see your site build these links naturally, over time. This can be accomplished through social media, guest blogging, press releases, and link exchanges to name a few. And while results don’t happen automatically, Google does notice!

Contact the Experts

Webtivity Marketing and Design has been providing digital marketing services since 1999. From link building, to blogging, to website design and digital advertising, we do it all. Have we mentioned that we are a Certified Google Partner Agency? Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or contact us for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business achieve all of your goals!

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What Small Businesses Can Expect from the Facebook News Feed Changes

Date posted: February 6, 2018

facebook news feedThe advent of the social media era on the internet marked a new age in business client relationship management. Not only could businesses big and small directly interact with clients and potential clients but they could, most of the time at no additional cost, generate leads off of platforms they paid no fee to use. This was unheard of in the digital arena long dominated by paid for listing professional directory listings to generate business. Facebook, and consequently, the Facebook News Feed kicked off this new avenue in true digital fashion; that is overnight with little to no warning for businesses to prepare.

Facebook has dropped another bombshell on the business community. It is estimated that up to 94% of all businesses use social media, 60 million on Facebook alone. Small business owners who often have smaller than average profit margins to meet flocked to this readily available method to generate leads for little to no cost. Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Twitter and other social media platforms represent a quick and easy way to reach former, current and potential clients directly while demonstrating your commitment to customer service in a public forum.

The Purpose of the Facebook News Feed Changes

facebook news feed changes Being on top is not always advantageous however as Facebook has recently learned. By nature, social media content is cloud sourced as well as community reinforced. It only takes a few unscrupulous advertisers or businesses to target misleading or erroneous content to known vulnerable communities to have content, news in this case, spread with little to factual background. Facebook, being the biggest social media platform by far, has been the most susceptible to this type of false information attacks. Accusations have gone as far as to blame Facebook for swaying democratic elections in some of the world’s oldest democracies.

Facebook responded to these concerns on January 11th 2018 with several planned changes to the Facebook News Feed. The Facebook News Feed is the main way users interact with Facebook as it lists the posts Facebook determines to be most interesting to you when you open your Facebook app or page on a computer. It has seen several updates in the past but the new announced changes will change the way it fundamentally operates in regards to separating businesses and personal pages.

CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, described the new changes as shifting away “…from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” The details on the implementation of this new Facebook News Feed update are still far and few in between but the stated goal is to shift Facebook content away from all pages and users having similar weight in terms of appearing on the Facebook Feed to more priority given to personal pages.

Changes Thus Far

What we’ve seen thus far is a noticeable decrease in Facebook Business page reach and video watch times. This has carried on to less Facebook referrals to client websites probably due to loss of user content interaction. Facebook business pages that are newer seem to be more affected than their more established counterparts. This might be due to more consideration given to pages Facebook considers “trusted” by users which are usually pages with a large user following and a higher rate of post interactions.

Future Expectations

small business facebook news feed changeBased on the overall goal of the new Facebook News Feed changes there are several effects we can predict in this upcoming year. Viral pages will see their view shares drop more in the future. Small businesses whose pages are new with a few likes will see their already small Facebook interaction rate drop even further. Videos will have less of an effect than they have in the past at garnering user attention. For those established small businesses with high interaction rates we can expect that their posts will see more likes as they stay on users’ news feeds for longer periods of time.

Free Ways to Minimize News Feed Effects on Your Business Page

What do you do when your small business’ user intake funnel drops? Capitalize on those users who you already attract. There is no better time than now to spruce up your business’ Facebook page. Add widgets, customize the call to action button, add more pictures, and respond to user posts/reviews promptly. Earn your current users’ trust so that they in turn are more likely to recommend you to their friends. This has the added benefit of increasing your Facebook “trust” score as well.

Paid Ways to Minimize News Feed Effects on Your Business Page

facebook advertising Facebook Ads have never been more important than now. The first thing businesses should do is ensure that they have a current interactive audience that is interested in their services that they can target. This can be accomplished quickly by launching a Facebook Like campaign. This is critical as all other Ad campaigns ran through the Facebook platform will depend on the size of this initial audience. Small businesses especially are vulnerable to having a smaller than ideal audience size.

As Facebook Ad revenue grows so does the tools it provides advertisers to use in their goal to generate more qualified leads. A shrewd advertiser should be taking advantage of all the aspects Facebook provides to reduce spending while simultaneously increasing profits. The Facebook Pixel, custom audience development, engagement ads, and website conversion campaigns are just a few of the tools now in your arsenal as an advertiser to assure a more successful ad campaign.

Consult the Experts

webtivity designs & marketingShow me someone who tells you that they know the entire extent of these new Facebook News Feed changes, and I will show you a liar. The fact of the matter is that the Facebook News Feed algorithm is a complicated beast that only Facebook truly knows how to manipulate. Take this same algorithm and add a major change to it and you have absolute turmoil. This is where it becomes important to have a competent trusted source of information of not only what is transpiring but how to adjust to the changes as well to minimize negative effects, and maximize their positive counterparts.

Webtivity Marketing & Design has been offering digital marketing services since 1999 with a strong focus on personal service. A point of view we found severely lacking in the online digital world. We specialize in providing a complete solution to all digital needs for small to medium as well as large business enterprises.

We are a Certified Google Partner Agency, winner of the Manatee Small Business of the Year Award, and other accolades.

Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or email Tim for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business achieve all of your goals!

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How to Run a Successful Facebook Like Campaign

Date posted: September 8, 2017

facebook like campaignSo you want to run a Facebook like campaign? Maybe you’ve just now finally created a Facebook page for your business. Or you’ve had a page that just never seems to gain any traction with Facebook users.

Does every one of your posts only get one or two likes…one of those being from you? Does your post “reach” just include 5 people?

If any of those situations describes you or your business a paid Facebook like campaign comes highly recommended. Now that you’ve identified your need however, how exactly do you go about running this thing?!

Your background is not a marketer, let alone an online marketer. And if you are like me in the past, social media itself might be a scary unfamiliar beast. Fear not! The folks at Webtivity Marketing & Design have put together a quick guide on how to run a successful Facebook like campaign.

Set Your Facebook Like Goals

This step would be obvious to anyone running a marketing campaign but often goes ignored for anyone just starting out on their own. How many likes do you have? How many do you want to have? And how long do you want to take to achieve your goal of likes?

Customize Your Facebook Page

Just like you wouldn’t invite visitors into a dirty home, tidy up your Facebook page before you sink any money into it. Give it the best chance to succeed in attracting its own organic likers before paying for any new ones. This will have the added benefit of encouraging anyone who comes from your paid like campaign to stick around.

Edit your about section, add your business hours, customize your call to action button, add any services you offer as their own tabs, and most importantly customize your profile and banner images

Spread Your Facebook Page Organically

Webtivity is a big believer in organic traffic and content. So start by adding links to your Facebook page on your website, in your newsletters, and even in your blog posts. Tell friends, clients, everyone you can reach to generate buzz and attract natural visitors to your Facebook page.

Create a Constant Stream of Quality Content

No one would like to visit you if your house was empty so why would they want to like a bare bones Facebook page?! Commit, and commit now to a steady posting schedule of quality content. Facebook makes this even easier by adding a scheduling tool to allow you to do your entire daily, weekly, and even monthly posting schedule all at once.

Do not start a Facebook like campaign without first committing to a steady posting schedule. We would even go as far as to suggest you try posting regularly for two months before spending any money on that page. You might run a successful Facebook like campaign only to lose all of those likes in the future as the posting frequency dies down to a trickle.

One thing Facebook, Twitter, and all other social media platforms have in common is the need to be social. What happens to friends who stop talking to you? They eventually fade away from your memory, and your relationship becomes a thing of the past. Do not let your Facebook page be a ghost page after investing your cold hard cash in it.

Be Responsive

This is the easiest one to list but probably the hardest one to follow in actuality. Be responsive to any reviews, comments, or private messages you receive from prospective, current or even past clients. This shows them that you care and increases the likelihood of a good review as well as a good recommendation.

You can accomplish this easily by linking your Facebook Business page to your personal page and turning on notifications. These will go straight to your Facebook page and phone if you have the Facebook application installed.

Set a Budget Based on your Goals

Set a monthly budget for your Facebook like campaign based on the like goals you want to achieve. Keep in mind the time period you are willing to wait to reach these goals. This should depend on your advertising budget as well as the perceived benefits you expect to reap from successfully achieving your Facebook like goals.

Track your Results

Simple enough but often overlooked. We have seen many a Facebook like campaign get ignored almost in the same breath it is created. Use Facebook’s handy dandy tracking tools to measure the results of your like campaign. From there you can adjust budgets or even posting frequency to either increase or decrease resulting likes as necessary.

webtivity marketing & designsWebtivity Marketing & Design has been operating since 1999 with a strong focus on personal service. A point of view we found severely lacking in the online digital world. We specialize in providing a complete solution to all digital needs for small to medium as well as large business enterprises.

We are a Certified Google Partner Agency, winner of the Manatee Small Business of the Year Award, and other accolades.

Give us a call at 941-753-7574 or email Tim for more information on how we can work closely with you to help your business achieve all of your goals!

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Free Adwords Consultation: Advantages of Working with a Google Certified Partner

Date posted: June 16, 2017

It is said that certifications in the Digital Marketing industry fall more often than rain in a rain forest. Who knows which companies to trust and which consultants have actually completed the necessary requirements instead of outsourcing the process? The answer is none.

digital marketing certificationThere are few exceptions to this rule however, that is the companies that are the target of most if not all digital marketing efforts. None more so fit the bill more than the behemoth underneath Alphabet, Google.

There are several reasons working with a Google Certified Partner can be advantageous to you and your company’s digital marketing goals.

Certification Backed By Google

The world’s biggest search engine needs no introduction. Suffice it to say they vet any applications for Google Partner status rigorously to ensure that any company or individual who plans on using their brand name as part of their marketing has earned the distinction.

On a basic level that entails checking to make sure a company is an established legal identity with employees. On an advanced level this includes meeting a minimum level of Google AdWords ad spend, delivered growth to clients, and shows sustained improvement over time.

For those few agencies who qualify a nifty badge is awarded like the one you see on the left. The full requirements are listed by Google to make it easier for potential clients to understand just what kind of benefits they can expect from any agency displaying the Google Partner Badge.

Certified Agency Team Members

Google requires that at least one employee be certified in the various advertising sections of the AdWords offerings. Fortunately here at Webtivity we have not one, not two, but THREE certified employees ready to meet your Pay-Per-Click needs. But just stating that means nothing.

Certifications come and go over time as individuals sometimes overlook re-certification. An agency’s Google Partner page however should be able to show you all qualified individuals as well as their respective qualifications.

Dedicated Google AdWords Representative

To be a Google AdWords partner requires going through a rigorous selection process by Google. There are some agencies that rise above that initial basic entrance level however. Around 5% all of digital marketing agencies earn the distinction of being assigned dedicated account representatives.

As the old idiom goes there is no better source of information than straight from the horse’s mouth. Google AdWords experts are the best place to get recommendations, practices, news, and a plethora of other information other digital marketing experts may not be aware of for months! Webtivity is proud to have and continue to earn this distinction.

Like what you hear so far? Request a free no-obligation consultation from the Google AdWords Certified experts at Webtivity!

Immediate AdWords Support

Google Partners, especially Google Partners with a dedicated representative, get immediate responses to ANY Google related issues. Is your website consultationlisted as hacked? Do you have an issue with your bill? Do you have any questions you can’t find an answer to? You might be stuck waiting for weeks, sometimes even months by going through regular Google contact avenues.

A Google Partner agency however can get your issue attended to and rectified within 24 hours! We have direct phone access to our Google Representatives for expedited service.

Direct Google AdWords Supported Consultation

One of the expanded duties of a Google AdWords representative team is helping their client acquire new business. This is because the advertising agency has proven itself time and time again as capable of delivering quantifiable and sustained results for their respective clients. Taken in this context it is in the best interest of the parent company, in this case Google, to ensure that that agency continually acquires new business.

Your FREE Google AdWords consultation will be undertaken in tandem with our Google AdWords dedicated account representatives to ensure that our suggested recommendations pass the rigor of accepted and up-to-date AdWords best practices.

The Webtivity Difference

We, at Webtivity Marketing & Designs, strive to ensure that we not only meet the highest Google standards for search but advertising as well. We not only have THREE AdWords certified team members but TWO Google Analytics certified members as well.

As part of our drive to always deliver quality server we differentiate our billing for advertising from Google AdWords. This means that you can keep track of your budget without worrying about where every dollar is being spent. This is something of an anomaly in the digital advertising industry as most agencies like to retain an inordinate amount of control on client budgets. But we place, and will continue to pursue a strictly transparent way of operating.

And it seems industry search engine giants are taking note. Don’t wait schedule your free AdWords consultation with the experts today! Give us a call at 941-753-7574 to experience the Webtivity difference for yourself.

 

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Choosing Your Digital Marketing Company

Date posted: June 14, 2017

Choosing Your Digital Marketing Company

 

MarketingFor most companies, online marketing is a no-brainer. The smart business owner knows that the internet is where today’s consumer lives. And what does every business owner want? To be on the first search results page on Google. Next stop – hire a marketing company. But who to pick?

 

Landing pages

Often, digital marketing companies will launch ads on your behalf that appear on search engines for keyword searches. This is a standard marketing practice. They are often even equipped with call tracking numbers to better track your business flow. But here’s the kicker. Where do these ads take the consumer when clicked? Does it lead to a page created within your own website? Or is this an offsite page that has a different URL than your website aka, NOT your website? While this method might score you a sale, it does not strengthen your SEO efforts. It also cancels out the ability to interest your customers in other products or services you offer as they will not actually be on your website where other information would be found. You’ve worked too hard on your site to have your ads lead elsewhere.

Be careful in picking a company to handle your campaigns. Make sure that they use landing pages on YOUR site! After all, you’re paying them to market your website, not theirs.

 

Social Media

MarketingGone are the days where Facebook naysayers are commonplace. By the end of 2016, Facebook announced that they had 1.86 billion users! That’s nearly one third of the entire planet! Instagram carries over 400 million users, Twitter and Google+, over 300 million.

Now, Google’s search engine algorithm has grown to consider websites that link back to social media. Be sure to look out for digital marketing companies that are aware of this change. Maybe even one that includes social media in a SEO campaign.

 

Case Studies

If you’re proud of your work, you share it. You talk about it. If you have a company in mind, visit their website. Do you see examples of their work? Case studies? Testimonials? A great company has great work to show off. Success stories are not too much to ask for when signing onto monthly marketing agreements.

 

Taking the time to question your digital marketing provider is key in sorting out the winners from the losers. Do your own research. Make sure they know what the newest marketing trends are and how they can use them to YOUR benefit.

Show your business to the world with Webtivity Marketing & Design!

 

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Do I Need an SSL Certificate for My Website?

Date posted: April 6, 2017

Webtivity Designs recommends that ALL webmasters or site owners upgrade their websites with an SSL certificate.

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts information sent to the server using SSL technology.

SSL CertificateSSL is essential for protecting your website, even if it doesn’t handle sensitive information like credit cards. It provides privacy, critical security and data integrity for both your websites and your users’ personal information.

This increased protection has not gone unnoticed by search engines. Starting in 2015 Google has slowly but surely increased the importance of having an SSL certificate to its search rankings. We fully expect the rest of the big three, Yahoo and Bing, to follow Google’s lead.

This is outlined on the Google Webmaster Blog.

This is a rare but incredible break in normal Google practices of never commenting on search ranking factors. They did not stop there with their pursuit of a more secure user experience. Recently the Google Chrome browser began showing a “Not Secure” warning on any webpage without an SSL that collects user data.

Where can you get an SSL Certificate? Webtivity currently offers SSL Certificates as well as installation and maintenance for a nominal fee. Certificates must be renewed every year to remain valid. We can provide a free estimate on the cost of the whole process.

If you do not go through us GoDaddy also offers SSL Certificates. Please note however that they do not offer installation or renewal services, just a certificate.

https webtivityA key requirement of an SSL Certificate is a dedicated IP. This means a website has its own IP address. Typing in the URL of the website or its IP address would bring you to the same website. This has the added benefit of speeding up the loading time of your website further positively influencing SEO rankings.

Webtivity is here to guide you through this process regardless of which provider you use. We highly recommend that ALL of our clients upgrade their websites to this security level. This goes double for current SEO clients.

Please feel free to send any questions or concerns our way via email or phone call at: (941) 753-7574

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What Does the Not Secure Warning Mean?

Date posted: March 24, 2017

There are many variations of Not Secure going around the Internet right now. “Not secure” is the warning you will see in the URL or address bar while using the Chrome Browser on certain pages. See below for an example.

chrome address bar not secure warning

When did this start?

This change came into effect on January 31st, 2017 with the release of Chrome Version 56.

chrome not secure warning origin

What Pages Are Affected?

Website pages with password or credit card form fields will trigger this “not secure” warning. For example a non-HTTPs or unsecured WordPress login page will look like this:

wordpress unsecured example

 

Some people may question the efficacy of this move in light of the fear it may instill in some unfamiliar users. For example for those of us who use the SmarterMail email server to manage our emails we now see:

unsecured site smartermail

Now imagine if you were not familiar with the Internet. Does that look like a safe place to login to you? This abrupt move by not just Google but Firefox as well has lofty goals but mark my words there will be growing pains.

What browsers are affected?

The browsers with the Not Secured Warning thus far include Firefox and Google Chrome. Firefox’s not secure warning started with Firefox 52. It’s warning looks a bit different than Chrome’s however:

firefox security warning

What is the goal?

The ultimate goal of both Chrome and Firefox, as well as some other browsers which I’m sure are to follow, is to secure the entire Internet over SSL. Regular HTTP has been shown to be vulnerable to “middle men” attacks. The monitoring, interception, and sometimes even injection of information before it can reach its destination.

It’s easy to see how this might be a concern for pages that contain sensitive information such as credit card or password information.

As it stands about a third of all web traffic is routed through SSLs or HTTPs and that number only keeps growing.

What can I do?

Get in touch with the consummate SEO professionals at Webtivity for more information on how to attain an SSL Certificate to ensure that your website visitors do not run into this menacing issue!

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Phishing Email

Date posted: March 13, 2017

Phishing Email

Below is an emPhishingail recently received by a client. The client contacted us to see if it was legitimate before clicking on any links. It was a good thing she did! This email was not from us and turned out to be a phishing email attempting to steal information or download malicious software on her computer.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

From: E-mail Administrator [mailto:admin@admin.srvr.com]

Sent: Monday, March 13, 2017 12:51 PM

To: admin@admin.com

Subject: [Norton AntiSpam]Your E-mail Account closure Notification

 

Dear Email Client,

 

You have exhausted the space 5GB Bandwidth of your email account and for this reason some of your incoming mails with files is placed pending.

Kindly Click on the link below to complete the upgrade on your account in order to Receive your pending mails and enjoy full features and efficient e-mail service delivery.

 

Click Here TO UPGRADE and add more Bandwidth to your mailbox.

 

Once the information provided matches the records on our database, your account will function normal again.

 

Sincerely,

Email Service Team

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

What makes this email suspicious?

 

  • “From:” email is not from our email system
  • “To:” is not addressed to their domain email address
  • Typos and grammar mistakes
  • Hovering over the link revealed a suspicious URL (link deactivated in this post)
  • Signature is “Email Service Team” not a Webtivity signature

 

Unfortunately with the convenience of the internet comes criminals and risk. Identity thieves have become very clever and good at impersonating companies we trust. Here are some tips:

 

  • Don’t assume that because it has a bank or company logo or looks like one your received previously that it is a legitimate email
  • Look at the to and from email addresses
  • Look for typos and grammatical errors
  • Hover over (do not click) any links and look at the bottom left corner of your browser to see where the links go. Best practice is not to use the email links and to log into your account as you normally do and interact that way.
  • Do not send personal information including credit card information by email
  • If an email is at all suspicious, contact the company using the contact information you have on file. DO NOT use the contact information in the suspicious email as it too is probably bogus
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5 Ways to Handle Online Reviews to Win Customers

Date posted: March 10, 2017

Why do online reviews matter?

online reviews importance to SEOYou already know that online reviews are feedback left by past customers on websites, but why should you even pay attention to them? There are hundreds of reasons why online reviews make a powerful online marketing tool. Most important of all is customer relationship management. Client satisfaction is the cornerstone of the success of any business venture regardless of its size.

Before online reviews there were testimonials, an affidavit of a business’s quality of service.  In today’s fast paced internet world most people (91%) regularly or occasionally read online reviews. Online reviews have become the new word-of-mouth communication tool for customers among each other.

Search engines that cater to these very same customers have noticed how much emphasis users place on reviews. Therefore, they have enacted algorithm changes to the way they present search results to favor better reviewed websites. Online reviews are invaluable to Search Engine Optimization, especially to small businesses.

Top 5 best online review websites

If you are a small local business, like Webtivity!, you don’t have a huge amount of resources to begin with. Let your friendly local web design marketing company make mastering your online reviews game a whole lot easier. Here is a list of the top five online review websites you should be focusing most of your efforts on:

  • Google – Head on over to Google My Business and claim your profile if you haven’t already done so. Google the biggest search engine on earth now includes your business’s ranking within search engine result pages.
  • Facebook – Facebook has its own review section for your business’s Facebook page. This ranking is now included in the Google Business Pack as well.
  • Yelp – Yelp is the next contender. It receives over 145 million unique visitors on a monthly basis!
  • Yellow Pages – This old classic is still favored by millions as their go-to business research landing page. This fact does not look to be changing, as they are position themselves as an online marketing service provider.
  • Bing Places – Microsoft’s answer to Google My Business this powerful review engine is not to be ignored. This is the second most popular search engine after Google, and yes, it does indeed include ratings as part of its rankings calculation.

How can I ask customers to leave online reviews?

asking for online reviewsYou understand how important online reviews are to your local business’s success, but how do you get or encourage clients to leave those reviews? There are several ways to encourage clients to leave reviews.

The easiest approach is after a sale is made or a service is provided. This is when the customer has your business fresh in their minds; they understand the benefit your business has provided so they are more likely to make the effort to leave a review. Strike while the iron is hot so to speak.

To acquire reviews indirectly, businesses have employed feedback cards, QR codes, emails, and even phone calls to encourage clients to leave reviews. When suggesting to a client to leave a review, remember to focus on one or two of the major sites we previously mentioned where you need reviews the most.

How do I track online reviews?

Now that your business has started receiving reviews how do you keep track of all the various review sites? There are various solutions out there but they cost money. If you currently have a search engine optimization partner managing your digital marketing efforts, give Webtivity a look (hint shameless plug).

If you are more of the do-it-yourself kind of person, look into setting up a Google Alert on your branded name. For example for us that would be “Webtivity Marketing and Designs”.  You’ll be notified any time your business is mentioned online.

Another nifty online tool for review management is Social Mention. They will track a variety of social media platforms for mentions of your branded name as mentioned above. It is free and it allows you to set up email alerts for specific keywords.

It bears mentioning that none of these tools beat regular manual checking of your listings on the review sites we mentioned earlier.

How do I handle negative reviews?

how do I handle negative online reviewsJust like positive reviews, you should strive to respond to each and every negative review. There are several guidelines you should follow however to ensure you do not make an already bad situation worse. You will only serve to alienate the customer and anyone else who reads that review.

Do not write anything argumentative or even defensive. Instead seek to resolve the customer’s issue as fast and as directly as possible. Reach out with a message offering to help solve the difficulty this client had with your product or service.

If the issue is resolved, ask the client to update their review, most happy clients will. If they do not respond your response should act as a great signal to potential customers that you care about client satisfaction.

Finally, bury negative reviews with positive ones. Redouble your efforts to acquire more reviews to balance out the negative reviews. Most clients looking for reviews will only pay attention to the final business review standing.

3 biggest mistakes small businesses make with online reviews

  • Not being responsive – The easiest way to lose potential clients, and subsequently search engine rankings, is by not being responsive to your online review platforms. Strive to have a 100% score on thanking all reviewers, as well as asking them for more feedback. In other words, reviews represent a unique opportunity to directly engage your clientele.
  • Combative responses – Even worse than being non-responsive, is responding in a negative and combative manner. This signals to users that whoever is managing this business is not a mature individual. A lack of tact can ruin any business.
  • Self or fraudulent reviews – This is the biggest no-no since no-nos were invented. You should never engage in this unethical practice. Review platforms have gotten sophisticated enough to be able to track false reviews. This earns a negative mark for your business and sinks your already floundering reputation even lower.

If I leave you with one thing…

Engage, engage, and engage. Please do not disregard the online review marketplace as a non-issue in your marketing efforts. Make sure your business is taking advantage of this free source of direct client to business engagement opportunity.

If you are ready to make the first step give us a call at (941) 753-7574 or schedule a quick conversation with Tim!

For more facts about online reviews check out this awesome infrographic from our friends over at invespcro:

The importance of online customer reviews

 

Infographic by- Invesp

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Internet Safety

Date posted: February 24, 2017

Internet Safety

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received Facebook friend requests from people I don’t know or from people that have no mutual friends with me. Or the number of times that I’ve been friend requested by people I’m already friends with. They’ve been hacked!

There are many easy ways to be safe online, in any capacity whether it’s social media, online purchasing, and even just email.

Internet Safety

    • First off, keep your profile PRIVATE! If you are not a public official or personality, why do you want the whole world knowing your business, seeing your private family photos, and knowing what you do on a daily basis? Go and Google yourself. See what Google knows about you. You might be surprised. Social media outlets have the ability to be private, so only people you approve or are friends with can see your postings. Check Facebook privacy basics here.
    • Internet SafetyIf your account is already private, make sure you are accepting friend requests, follow requests, or +1 from people you know! Go through your friends list, how many of these people do you actually know? Delete them if you don’t!
    • LinkedIn is geared towards professionals and business, so you might not want a private LinkedIn profile, but there options to maintain some degree of privacy.
    • Don’t share your passwords. Also, don’t use the same password for all accounts. Let’s face it. The majority of us pay our bills online; we shop online, and probably even pay our taxes online. Keep a list (somewhere safe) of passwords, and make them difficult! Include numbers, special characters and capital letters.
    • Speaking of passwords. You know how when you set up a new account and you’re asked to answer security questions? Provide fake answers. Why? Well, have you ever noticed that the majority of these Facebook quizzes and “tell me about yourself” posts are geared towards some of the most common questions? Such as your home city, street you grew up on, favorite vacation spot; the list goes on and on. Don’t answer these quizzes, they’re click bait! When you answer these questions, you’re giving hackers insight which can be used to access your accounts! Why do you need to tell your friends all about yourself, shouldn’t they know already?
    • Check out the Apps you’ve allowed on your social media accounts. Remove any that you don’t use, and limit the information you allow them to see.
    • Be careful what you click on. Sadly, too many times I’ve opened a news story (from an actual news source) only to have “You’ve been selected to win…” pop up in my window. Don’t click it! Back out or close the window.
    • Don’t open emails that look funny or are from people you don’t know. Almost every store today asks for an email address for discounts or rewards points. I have a separate email account which I use for things like that. I also give out a fake phone number.
    • Rather than give your credit card information out online, consider using PayPal, or Apple Pay. Link it to a bank account or a credit card that doesn’t have a ton of available funds.
    •  
      In addition to these safety precautions, it’s wise to have a good anti-virus or spyware program installed on your computer.

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Is your Facebook password Strong?

Date posted: February 16, 2017

Is your Facebook password Strong?

Facebook is one of the most popular social media websites where people get to interact with their friends and families. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook has over 1.86 billion users. This makes it a target for those who are trying to steal information by using different tricks to get Facebook user’s accounts information. There are several precautions you can take to secure your Facebook from being hacked.

Make a strong password

Create a strong Password. It is recommended that you avoid using your name, birthday, pets, numbers from 1 to 9 or common words in your password. A strong password should be at least 8 characters in length, the more the characters are the better. The characters should contain at least one upper case letter, lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Change your password every 6 months; this is not only good advice for Facebook only but other online accounts as well.

Do not use the “remember password” feature on web browsers. When your browsers prompt the “remember password”, simply click Not Now.  If you use the “remember password” feature on someone else’s computer, it will give them access to your Facebook account whenever they want.

Avoid Facebook Quizzes.  Do not interact with every quiz that pops up in your timeline. Quizzes use catch phrases like “What Do People Say behind My Back?” or “Who Are the Hottest Friends around You?” These quizzes usually request your information such as name, profile picture, age, sex, birthday and other private information. This is giving out your personal identifying information to strangers who might use this information to hack your Facebook account, your bank account and more.

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3rd Annual Bradenton River Regatta

Date posted: February 10, 2017

3rd Annual Bradenton River Regatta

 

The 3rd Annual Bradenton Area River Regatta was a huge success! After having cold and rainy weather in its 2nd year, this year went off without a hitch, and it has been reported that there were about 100,000 people in attendance!

I was looking forward to this for weeks, and was so happy when the day turned out beautiful! I had guests so I didn’t get to make it there as early as I would have liked. (Clydesdales are my favorite, and I had hoped to see them cross the “Green Bridge”)

We got there for the 2pm Powerboat Division Final. Parking was a bit of a challenge, but that was to be expected. There were so many people! On the walk to the river, we passed a concert, there weren’t many people listening, probably because the big event was about to happen.

Bradenton RegattaWe actually found the perfect spot, right between both bridges, and right on the rail, which we didn’t think would happen. We were right in front of the pavilion, where soon after we got there, a BMX bike show was going on. There were literally people everywhere. The whole length of the bridge was lined with people, the waterfront was full, and people were way up on the embankment too.

The show didn’t start at 2, but that was fine. There was plenty of action on the other side of the bridge. We couldn’t see from where we were, but it was the Hydro Cross Qualifier’s. We did have a little entertainment though; a wake boarder came out on a jet ski. He was pretty incredible! There were also a few helicopters. Had I thoroughly read about the Regatta prior to getting there, I would have known that there were helicopter rides too! They were flying so low, and came right above the crowd so we could wave at the passengers, it was quite fun.

When the power boats finally came out, the crowd was filled with excitement! Check out this video below!

Boy those things are loud. Honestly, I was expecting something like a big cigarette boat, but realistically, they wouldn’t have even fit in that small area. Of course, I picked my favorite, a purple boat to win, but a white one and a yellow one were the leaders. Those little boats move fast! They were almost running in a figure 8, and I believe the white boat lapped the others.

Bradenton River RegattaSince it didn’t get under way on time, and one of the boats broke down stopping the action again, we left. So we didn’t see who won, but it was a lot of fun while we were there. As I said before, I had company, and if it were up to me, I would have stayed all day! There’s always next year.

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Video Marketing

Date posted: January 27, 2017

Video Marketing

Video Marketing

Video marketing has been one of the biggest trends this year. You Tube isn’t the only place for videos any longer. Social media marketing via video is everywhere, and live videos are becoming the norm.We are a living in an on demand society who have, and want everything right at their fingertips.

Thankfully, making video has never been easier. You don’t need any special or expensive equipment. The only thing needed is your phone! There are so many great apps available, that now making quality video is as simple as shooting it or putting a few pictures together in an app.

Here are some benefits of including video marketing as part of your marketing strategy.

Conversion

74% of users who watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service subsequently bought it.

SEO Benefits

Google loves it! Search engine algorithms love content rich media such as videos.

Consumer Engagement

Not only does google like it, consumers do too, and they’re much more likely to like and share your content.

Here’s why video marketing should be part of your marketing strategy

  1. It can help build brand loyalty
  2. Video content can be used as a teaching tool for products
  3. 65% of the population are visual learners
  4. 100 million users watch online videos every day – Video Brewery
  5. Video is the most powerful tool in creating emotional connections

Video advertising should make up a significant portion of your advertising strategy. For questions or any advice on this topic, please contact us at Webtivity and we’ll be happy to help.

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New Device? No Problem!

Date posted: January 13, 2017

Email SetupEmail Set Up

Did you get a new phone or tablet for Christmas and need to set up your email? Well, Webtivity has got you covered! Follow the steps below to set up your Android device, Apple device, and computer.

Android Device

  1. Open Outlook for Android.
  2. Go to Settings > Add Account > Add Email Account
  3. Enter your email address then continue
  4. Enter your email account password
  5. Allow calendar and contact permissions
  6. Your email account is set up!

Apple Device

  1. Open Outlook for iOS
  2. Go to Settings > Add Account > Add Email Account
  3. Enter your email address
  4. Enter your email account password
  5. Select yes allow calendar and contact permissions
  6. Your email account is set up!

To set up an IMAP account, such as our smarter mail email accounts, follow these steps:

  1. In Outlook, go to File, Click the Info tab
  2. Click Add Account
  3. Click manually configure server settings or additional server types radio button.
  4. Click Next.
  5. Click the Internet Email radio button.
  6. Click Next.
  7. Enter the following information:
    • Your Name:
    • Email address:
    • Incoming Server:
    • Outgoing Mail server:
    • User name:
    • Password:
  8. Click Next.

If your mail server requires SMTP Authentication, follow these steps. If you are not sure if your mail server requires SMTP Authentication, please contact your hosting company or ISP.

    • Click on More Settings.
    • Navigate to Outgoing Server Tab
    • Check “My Outgoing Server requires SMTP Authentication”.
    • Click OK.
  1. Click Next.
  2. Click Finish.

 

Server Details for Webtivity email clients:

Webtivity Server: a.mx.webtivity.us

Pop port: 110(TLS), or 995(SSL)

IMAP

Port: 143(TLS), or 993(SSL)

SMTP

Port: 25(TLS), 587(TLS), or 465(SSL)

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Holiday Marketing Campaign

Date posted: December 13, 2016

Holiday Marketing Campaign.

During the holidays businesses tend to run a milliard of different promotions. When the year is almost over people spend more than compared to other times of the year. Christmas, arguably the biggest holiday of the year, is right around the corner, as a business you should be running different types of marketing campaigns to take advantage of this temporary increase in spending.

At Webtivity, we can help you figure out which type of marketing best fits your business and would bring you the kind of results you desire. Here are some examples of different types of promotions you can run during holidays.

  1. Make sure you have a website to drive your customer to, having a website makes a huge difference to a customer’s buying decisions. If you have a website, it must be attractive to customers and mobile friendly because, in this era, everything is done on cell phones.
  1. Social Media: If you are trying to promote your business during holidays, you need to be active on social media which allows you to connect with a lot of different potential customers. Using social media can also help you to create attractive ads for your business that are easy to share. This makes it easy for anyone who likes your promotions and ads to share them with their friends. Therefore gaining your business some much needed exposure.
  1. Advertise ahead of the holiday. This allows you to promote your business and to allow people to get to know your services before the holidays. In case they need your services during the holidays they are more likely to use a business whose offerings they are familiar.
  1. Content: Make sure your website has great content, you do not want to drive customers to a website that does not have good content or is attractive enough to turn them into a client.

 

Webtivity Marketing & Designs would like to wish you and your family happy holidays!

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2016 TechXpo

Date posted: October 14, 2016

TECHXPO HOSTED BY Manatee Chamber of Commerce

 

On November 3rd, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce will host the 2016 TechXpo at their Lakewood Ranch Office at the McClure Center 4215 Concept Court.

The Techxpo will feature an all-star lineup of local technology experts including Webtivity’s very own Terry Thompson, who will help business owners, managers, and in-house IT staff gain the knowledge they need in order to stay apprised of technology that can help their businesses grow and prosper.

Terry will be a participant in the Web Essentials Panel Discussion, an open forum to help answer questions you may have regarding best practices on web design, search engine optimization, tips / tricks / plug-ins to make your site stand out, and help your clients and customers have an outstanding online experience with you.

The schedule of events is as follows.

9:00 AM – 9:20 AM
Networking and mingling with local IT experts

technology experts

technology experts

9:20 AM – 9:50 AM
Social and Mobile Computing

9:55 AM – 10:25 AM
Web Essentials Panel Discussion

10:30 AM – 10:50 AM
Disaster Preparedness & Recovery

10:55 AM – 11:25 AM
IT Security & Your Business

11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Questions and Answers

Tickets are:

$28 – Manatee Chamber Members and Manatee Young Professionals
$38 – Non-Members and Guests

Enter our coupon code Webtivity to save $5.00 on admission.

Register here.

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Why Online Marketing is Necessary for Business.

Date posted: October 11, 2016

Why Digital Marketing is Necessary for Business.

In the digital marketing field, we are experiencing a change in the way businesses operate. Almost any good or service can be sold or advertised online which is the reason why most companies have changed their strategies on how to advertise their products. The goal of internet marketing is to spread awareness of the business’ product and services.
Digital marketing encompasses a growing field of different strategies, like search engine optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and social media outreach.
Business owners and organizations are investing more and more money in marketing but with an emphasis on digital marketing because our society is getting more and more dependent on the Internet to provide information on just about any subject. The most top rated companies today are using some form of Pay-Per-Click advertising. This is the reason why advertising platforms like Google’s Adwords are bringing in on average more than 100 million dollars per day.
According to marketingland.com, Mobile Pay-Per-Click advertising is the fastest growing segment of digital advertising.

online marketing

online marketing advertisment

 

 

There are numerous online marketing benefits:

  1. Businesses that decide to advertise online have a chance to present their products to millions of online users simultaneously.
  2. Online marketing brings traffic to your website. when the clients are happy with your product they can always come back to your website to purchase more or refer a friend and that is called free advertisement .
  3. Digital marketing generates high conversion rates .
  4. Digital marketing connects you with mobile consumers which allow them to connect with the business on the real time.

We have seen the grow of digital marketing for the last 5 years where it doubled since 2012.

13-01-10-dm-post-image-dh

online marketing

 

Digital Marketing in 2013

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Meet the team at Webtivity

Date posted: September 23, 2016

Webtivity  team has grown and we feel like it is time for you to meet us all, to put some faces behind the company and to know more about what we do all day.

 

What is your name? Terry Thompson

Where are you from? Trout Creek, MichiganTerry Thompson

How did you get to Webtivity? Bought the company in 2009

How would you explain your job? Man of many hats.

What is your favorite color? Blue

I can’t go a day without… Coffee and my dogs.

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what? Camping or hanging out by the pool.

 

What is your name? Brian Dubil

Where are you from? Born and raised in Sarasota FloridaBrian Dubil

How did you get to Webtivity? I completed my AS in computer graphics and design. I was looking for a job in the design field. I heard about a job opening at Webtivity through a friend, went in for the initial interview and the rest is history.

How would you explain your job? Diverse, you never really know what you will be getting into day to day.

What is your favorite color? Dark Green or Navy Blue.

I can’t go a day without… Tea, love me some tea!

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what? Spending time with the family, whether it’s being lazy on the couch, out paddle boarding or on an adventure they are always with me.

 

What is your name?  Tim Seward

Where are you from? Rockville, MD/ just outside of Washington DC Tim Seward

How did you get to Webtivity? Met Terry at a local St. Pete business.

How would you explain your job? Customer Relations. I get the client and keep them happy. I liaison between the marketing team and the client. I go to community meetings to keep the face of Webtivity current and alive. SALES!

What is your favorite color? Blue

I can’t go a day without… COFFEE!!!… And music

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what? At home, working on the house OR out with friends laughing…the gym too.

 

What is your name? Didier Bizimungu

Where are you from? I am originally from a small country in East Africa called Rwanda. Didier Bizimungu

How did you get to Webtivity? I was lucky enough to be hired by the Webtivity family shortly after graduating from the University of South Florida

How would you explain your job?  My job varies day by day. From entire campaign management to minute details that might take a few days. The constant theme to my job would be the excitement; every day presents a different challenge.

What is your favorite color? My favorite color is blue. It invokes a calm emotion within me.

I can’t go a day without… That would be a prayer.

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what? You will find me in nature either hiking, biking, playing with my dog at the park, or even just taking long walks.

 

What is your name? Meredith

Where are you from? Beverly, located on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Meredith

How did you get to Webtivity? I moved to FL (finally) and was fortunate enough to see the job posting, thought it was perfect for me, and I got the job!

How would you explain your job? I do many different things day-to-day. I manage social media accounts; write blog posts, online marketing, website support, customer service. I learn something new here every day!

What is your favorite color? Purple. My condo up north was ALL purple!

I can’t go a day without… Coffee and the ocean

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what? Enjoying all that is Florida! Running, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, yoga, visiting one of our many preserves, and taking pictures of rainbows and sunsets.

 

What is your name? Janvier Nshimyumuremyi

Where are you from? Kigali (Rwanda) Janvier Nshimyumuremyi

How did you get to Webtivity?  I was referred to Webtivity by a friend.

How would you explain your job?  Responsible for delivering marketing programs to support the growth and expansion of our clients’ company products and services.

What is your favorite color? Blue

I can’t go a day without… talking to my daughter.

Where can we find you on the weekend, and doing what: Most of the time, I spend my weekend with family, road trips and spend lot’s of time either at the pool or the beach.

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5 Ways To Increase Traffic to Your Website

Date posted: September 14, 2016

The biggest challenge a business owner faces is the lack of traffic to his or her website.  This is an enormous challenge because no traffic means nobody knows about the business’s services. Today, we will look into 5 easy ways to increase traffic to your website.

Great content: It’s highly recommended to take the time to find great content to put on your website or blog. Having quality content is one of the top factors google uses to display your website in search engine results. Great content becomes beneficial to your website by bringing traffic to your website and when the customers are happy and find the website’s content relevant they are more likely to share them.

Blogging: Blogging is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website because, every time you write a blog, it adds new content on your website which is what search engines love, with this new content, your website is more likely to show up in the top search results on search engines.  Blogging not only brings you traffic, it also creates a relationship between new and existing customers.  Every time a customer leaves a comment, they are more likely to come back to read the reply to their comment, which creates a consistent audience to your website.

Social Media:  Social media is a great tool to promote your content and be connected to a mass audience. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more can help lead traffic to your website and start a conversation that can be shared through other social media platforms.

Advertise:  Advertising will immediately increase your website’s traffic. By using Pay Per Click advertising like Google Adwords and social media advertising.  For example, Facebook allows you to advertise by choosing the exact audience you want to target which makes it easier to convert the targeted traffic. Businesses are increasingly using social media advertising to drive traffic to their websites and to promote their services to the mass audience social media presents.

On Page SEO:  On-Page SEO plays a huge role in ranking high on search engines.  Having relevant keywords in your website content will make it easy for search engine to find your website and give it a good ranking. All this cannot just happen without good content.

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How To Write a Viral SEO Rich Article

Date posted: August 26, 2016

Preparation

Like all great written content, your first step should be research. Research, research, and research again. Whether it is Google, an seo search enginesEncyclopedia, or your grandma Lucille, I don’t care what source you use, but be sure to run your topic through a rigorous test process to make sure your content will reach or even surpass your intended goals. Things to look out for:

Has someone already covered this topic?

  • Not necessarily a deal breaker since every topic has a potentially unlimited number of angles an author can cover. It is good to get a gist of the content other related articles have on the topic. If you do not plan on making your article as comprehensive, maybe a different take on that subject might be more fitting.

Is my topic saturated with results already?

  • The amazing World Wide Web has been around for a very long time. Take a moment to make sure your topic has not been beaten into a saturated pulp. Pick interesting angles, niches or even a related; more obscure field to increase the likelihood of your article standing out. Remember the absence of search results does not equal the absence of search queries.
    Can I use related articles to round out my knowledge on my chosen subject?

In your research, you might discover some things you did not know about your topic. Take a moment to absorb this information, round out, and refresh your knowledge on the chosen topic.

Picking a Topic

Picking a topseo article strategyic is the first important step in creating quality popular content. For SEO purposes this topic is going to be synonymous with our chosen keywords. For this purpose, we are creating an article to add to our website. I am going to assume initial keyword targeting was done, and that two-word keyword targets have been adequately covered. We will focus on three-word keywords in this article, but if you are just starting out in your SEO journey, feel free to replace three-word keywords with two-word keywords.

Another reason to focus on three-word keywords is the sheer number of search engine results available with two keywords. Otherwise, the competition will be tough. This should not be attempted on a lowly side article but within the main page content of the website.

First things first, run the three-word keywords through your favorite search engine and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has someone already used these keywords? If so, are there more than ten results directly referencing them? Are they in the same order as I am using them? Ten results are not the end all be all final decision-making number, but it’s a good rule of thumb to use.
  • Is my topic saturated with results already? You are looking for three keywords with less than three pages exactly referencing your chosen keywords.

The All Important Title

The title is the second most important feature of your article. This is what search engine users will see first. Consider it your book cover. Have you ever bought a book simply because its cover initially caught your eye? This is in the same league. Your title will reverberate throughout the world wide web, and represent your entire article in a few short words. There are several things you can do to ensure your article becomes the eye-catching gem that I am sure you wish it to be.

  • Include numbers. For example “top ten”, “four reasons”, and other references to a list.
  • Make sure to include your three chosen keywords.
  • How to titles attract more attention (see this article you are reading).
  • Run your title through a couple of search engines, and make sure someone hasn’t already used it.

Formatting

seo codeFormatting is an important factor when it comes to whether those starry-eyed visitors you attracted stick around. It will be the difference between whether they read your whole article or just click on the next Pinterest picture. Formatting is equally as important to SEO. There are several guidelines to follow to ensure maximum reader retention.

  • User proper grammar. Simple, but often overlooked on the Internet.
  • Keep your paragraph length to a maximum of four sentences. Attention spans only get lower on the Internet.
  • Have an instance where you bold, italicize, and underline the chosen keywords. This can be done up to twice per article, as too many formatting changes hinder reader attention.
  • Link to your website from your article at least once. This can be to the index page or any other page where you wish to increase SEO rankings.
  • Include a minimum of at least one picture in the article. There is no maximum when it comes to pictures, because those low attention spans absolutely adore images.
  • If you have a video include it in the article. This can be placed anywhere during the length of the article, but the beginning, directly in the middle or the end seem to be most effective placement for video content.

Images and Pictures

Picturseo imagees are your ticket to retaining reader attention. Use them wisely by enveloping text around them wherever possible. Make sure to include an alternative image tag to each image to increase search engine friendliness. This is where you want to include your three chosen keywords in this text.

Original images are preferred, as they are loved by all the major search engines. But if originals are not possible, feel free to use any other source as long as it is legal. You want to avoid any copyright infringement for ethical reasons, as well as protecting your website’s reputation.

The Conclusion

In the summary, after wrapping up your article make sure to link to the index page or main page of your website such as Webtivity Designs. This tells visitors where to go for more information. At the very end of the article, include a short sentence with your phone number and a link to your contact us page or email.

After Steps

social media seo rich contentNow, what? You’ve done your due diligence, your article is up and live. What else can you do to ensure the maximum reach of your article? Hop on social media channels, and I mean all of them. Facebook, Twitter, Google+… all of them. Post a short snippet your article’s title and encourage readers or followers to check it out. This is an excellent opportunity to include an original picture that was included in your article. Or a video if your article contained one.

Social media updates with multimedia attachments do almost five times better than their plain textual alternatives.

The next step is an evaluation of the effectiveness of your article. Jump on to your website metrics system and gauge the impact your article has on your website traffic. Analyze and optimize, find out what your audience loves and what it hates. Adjust accordingly for future articles.

seo analyticsThis is the most important step in this whole guide. If you do not have an analyzing step you are basically starting from scratch on every single article you write! I know people get busy, so even if you check on your previous articles progress once when you are writing the next one, please do it.

That one glance may be the difference between making a costly mistake and taking advantage of an otherwise unknown opportunity.

If you’d like a free consultation on how to better market your business using original content, please contact us at Webtivity Marketing & Design.

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2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Date posted: January 6, 2016

marketingAt the beginning of every year we say to ourselves that we’re going to do better. We’re going to obtain more money, work on our health, and improve our relationships. In the business world, we usually only focus on the money part. Fortunately, these things are all connected in a personal and career sense. Below are our 2016 New Year’s Resolutions:

Lose Weight
Shed the bulk by reviewing print materials, website copy, and proposals. Is it information overload? Reduce and simplify to clearly communicate with your customers, staff, and prospects. In a world heavily concerned with SEO and online marketing, we tend to fluff fluff and fluff with keywords and phrases. However, you can lose your customer’s attention and purpose when overloading them with nonsense.

Get Organized
Create a marketing calendar for your social media posts, e-newsletters, expos and events. Canned responses can be a great time-saver to those frequently asked questions. Gmail has a lab under “settings” to create these messages. Some internal systems call them other names such as macros or auto-responses. Don’t forget to proofread before sending. Some canned messages need you to fill in client’s names and info. You don’t want to leave “Dear Mr. Client” in the intro.

Simplify
In the spirit of organization, cutting corners is sometimes encouraged. Make an effort to go paperless and to keep all documents organized on your computer. Use the mentality of “if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, who could jump in and do my job?” (Sounds morbid, we know, but this makes one think about training, organizing, and setting procedures.) Here at Webtivity, we use a couple of shortcuts like the Stanza date clipper for Google Calendar that takes information from a web page and lets you add it to your calendar with a couple clicks, rather than copying and pasting over. Another great app is called RoboForm that stores logins for frequently visited sites and personal info for those annoying registration and checkout fields.

Improve Communication
Respond to all emails. If you scan over an email with intent on replying to it later, be sure to mark it as “unread” or flag it as a  follow-up. Leaving coworkers or clients on hold for weeks is just plain rude. If you don’t have an answer, simply respond that you’ll work on one and keep them updated on the project. Personally, when I send an email or response, I feel like I’ve done my part. It’s beyond annoying having to babysit to make sure someone else has done theirs. At that point, I feel like I’m doing two jobs. Remember to be consistent and transparent. Eliminating questions builds trust and respect within your team and clientele.

Give Back
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. While being part of several organizations, chambers, and boards, we see a lot of talking with little action from surrounding businesses. Inspire your company and community to get their hands dirty and chip in where needed. We’re talking about orchestrating community cleanup days, assisting local charities and nonprofits, offering free workshops, or starting an internship program. Check with your local chambers and business associations to find opportunities to make a difference in your district.

Build and Maintain Morale
Teamwork makes the dream work. No really. It does. If you have a staff that is gossiping or throwing one another under the bus, your company will never have anything but turnover. (Oh and hint, hint, the example is set from the top-down.) If you find yourself throwing fits, lacking patience, coming in late/leaving early, and being stingy, don’t expect much more from your employees. Work on team goal-setting and be sure to praise your co-workers for your triumphs.  Keep your team up-to-speed on your intentions and progress. An organization that works toward a common goal will take pride in their company inside and outside of working hours.

Put Your Best Face Forward
Most of us are guilty (I know I am!) of rolling out of bed last minute and throwing ourselves together. After adding the extra holiday pounds and entertaining the in-laws, dolling myself up for work is usually my last priority. However, it’s the first thing my clients and support staff notice. Do yourself a favor, and take that couple of minutes to primp and polish in the morning. It shows respect for yourself and your position. (You also won’t hate yourself in tagged company photos!)

Don’t Become a Workaholic
This sounds counter-intuitive to a list heavily geared toward business goals, but work needs to be turned off. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating properly, and enjoying yourself. If you’re in workmode 24/7, you burn yourself out and push away those you care about. Take time to meditate and have hobbies. This clear-headed thinking will rejuvenate your job and you’ll find 5 o’clock comes sooner than it used to.

Finish What You Started
Goal-setting doesn’t mean diddly if you don’t follow through. Set dates, mark your calendars, and have accountability partners. Display your goals visibly for everyone to see daily. This keeps you and your team honest with each other. It’s okay to ask for help and to offer it when you notice someone is behind. Celebrate your victories and recognize your milestones!

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Holiday Marketing Tips

Date posted: December 8, 2015

logo-holidayIf you missed The Grand Central District‘s Holiday Mixer, below are the tips we presented to help market your business during the holiday season:

 

Light Up the District!

We’re encouraging all businesses to keep their lights on through the month of December.

  • This helps unify district by displaying all of the storefronts.
  • Promotes your business and it’s offerings when you’re closed.
  • Keeping your business lit, deters sketchy activity and makes any mischief visible.

 

Holiday Open House

If you haven’t already, schedule a holiday open-house at your business.

  • Retailers, if budget permits, offer finger food and wine.
    • If budget doesn’t permit, try co-opping with local bars and restaurants.
    • Get rid of unwanted merch by offering grab bags with surprise goodies.
    • Hide a couple “big deal” presents like store gift cards in the grab bags.
    • Bundle items into a gift set for a special promotion.
  • Restaurants, promote your space as a holiday party venue.
    • Offer a private area of the restaurant or bar, or again, pair up with local retailers that might be hosting their own event.
    • Offer samplings of your house wine and pass out coupons to lure them back to your space.

 

  • Put your customers in the mood to buy!
    • Decorate your store or office window.
    • Remind your clients that anything can be a gift!
    • Put bows on larger items.
    • Make gift cards for your services.

 

  • Remember to utilize your social media.
    • Dress up your cover photo on Facebook.
    • “Holidize” your logo by putting jingle bells around it or a santa hat on it.
    • Boost your posts and remind customers you’re there!
    • Set out a guestbook and email your customers special offers or holiday tips and tricks.

 

If you’d like a free consultation on how to better market your business during the holidays, please contact us at Webtivity Marketing & Design.

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Supporting Small Business Saturday

Date posted: November 23, 2015
Record Store

Customers Dig Through Albums at Planet Retro Records in St. Petersburg, FL

While many people are divided on the concept of Black Friday shopping and how it takes over Thanksgiving mindset, many can agree that Small Business Saturday is a day worth supporting.

Small Business Saturday is  a movement dedicated to the mom and pop shops- the brick and mortars that make up 27 million businesses in our economy. These locally owned and operated establishments also employ more Americans than their large corporation counterparts.

So, how can you support the movement? Take a stroll down your town’s main street or downtown on Saturday, November 28. Notice the small boutiques and cafes that line the neighborhood- whose owners most likely live a stone’s throw from you.

These shops carry the gems of gifts- locally made soaps, hand crafted jewelry, up-and-coming artists’ work, and the like. You can guarantee your gifts will be one-of-a-kind (and you won’t show up with the same bath and body set as your sister-in-law!)

Beyond small retailers, be sure to remember your boutique design, accounting, and law firms right in your backyard. These folks are invested in your community, because they also live and operate there. The money you spend here at home, recycles back into our sidewalks, schools, and public safety.

If you’re a small business looking to promote your own Small Business Saturday, be sure to promote any sales on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (There’s a respected audience on each platform.) Invite friends and family to a “Holiday Open House” featuring your best offerings bundled, discounted, or with free gift-wrapping.

Make the shopping experience stupid-simple for your clientele. Gift wrapping doesn’t have to be complicated. You can achieve this with cute gift bags and tissue paper. Ask your customers if they’ve completed their holiday shopping, and if there’s anything special you can help them find. We can’t emphasize social media enough! Ask customers to check-in, hashtag, or share your events for a small in-store incentive. (Think free samples, small discounts, or coupons for their next visit.)

 

Here at Webtivity, we wish you and yours a safe and Happy Holiday!

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Junior Leadership Manatee 2015-2016 Accepting Applications Now

Date posted: April 28, 2015

Attention all high school sophomores!!  The Junior Leadership Manatee program is now accepting applications for the 2015-2016 class.  Applications must be postmarked by May 30, 2015 to be considered.
jlm2015
Junior Leadership is designed for teens interested in becoming future leaders by enhancing their knowledge of community resources, current issues and other factors influencing the direction of Manatee County’s future.  Throughout the program participants gain special access to local business, government, agricultural and media staples in our community and learn what career and employment opportunities are available in our county.

The cost to participate is $150 for those students who meet eligibility requirements.  Some financial assistance is available based on economic need.   Junior Leadership is a unique and invaluable experience students can include on their resume or college application.

junior-leadership-logoFor eligibility requirements and more information on the Junior Leadership Manatee program please visit the official website: www.juniorleadershipmanatee.org

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Mobile Matters

Date posted: April 21, 2015

Food for thought: 330 Million Americans using some 200 Million smartphone devices who tend to use their smartphone as ones ‘life remote’.  A May 2014 study from Google revealed near 60% of consumers use Google search every month to find ‘local’ information in which 1 in 5 local searches leads to an in-store purchase.  These numbers are climbing as I’m certain you’ve stood in line at a retail spot or grocer noticing someone around you scouting a better online deal than what’s in front of them.

smartphones-everywhere

This is a telling tale as to the present consumer experience with less than 1 in 10 websites being built mobile responsive with a mindful multi-screen strategy approach to your customers.  Without a strategic digital approach your organization might be one of the many who don’t enjoy being a part of the 61% mobile searches leading to a warm phone call inquiring about your product or service – locally.

Why does this matter?  Interconnectivity.  While you may not buy the latest smart washing machine or smart fridge just yet, the world around you is!  CISCO forecasts some 30+ Billion through to as high as 65+ billion connected smart devices which will blanket our world over the course of the next 5 years!  Imagine every consumer touch point digitized and analyzed by Marketing Technologists [like us] who use this information to give you precisely the right product and service at the moment you are looking for that product or service.  Furthermore, when this “Eco-System” captures your smartphone movements (either in your hand, in your pocket, or in your car), enticing you to purchase what you already want through couponing has been found to compound in-store traffic.  This, a marketers holy grail, is here upon us now.

Macy’s rolled out their iBeacon pilot test through 2014.  After review, Kent Anderson, president of Macy’s said, “The customer who gets more engaged in more of the channels that Macy’s has to offer gives us more wallet share.”  This truism applies to your best customers too!

What’s next?  As the beacon environment stabilizes, this micro-location targeting technology will boost local economies.  Those groups that pull together to collect, share and market to their local business ecosystems directly will benefit greatest here!  It’s no secret shopping local returns twice the economic value than in shopping at multinational entities who currently house over $1.6 Trillion dollars offshore outside of the USA.

As technology adapts and accelerates, I hope you and your organization has a strategic marketing technology plan to leverage one of the greatest opportunities in the last century and half – what’s your part of the $15+ trillion digital economy will you are hoping to capture?  Better yet – are you prepared?

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How to Set Up Google Alerts

Date posted: April 8, 2015

About Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a service that monitors the web for keyword topics you want to track, such as your name, company name, product name, etc.  Based on criteria you provide Google delivers the results to your e-mail. This service is useful for many reasons, such as monitoring the web for specific information about your company, your competitors, etc.

For Google Alerts Helpwww.support.google.com/alerts/answer/4815696
Official Google Alerts Sitewww.google.com/alerts
Download the PDF version of this blog post

Here are some basics for setting up your alerts:


Step 1
Log into your Google account: https://accounts.google.com

1


Step 2
Go to Google Alerts: www.google.com/alerts  If you’re logged into your Google account your name and email address will appear as options.  If you want to track your name or email address click on the “+” signs to the right of each.

Google Alert


Step 3
For other words and phrases you want to track, type them directly in the box provided.

Google Alert

Advanced Alerts:
Use quotations:
If you’re tracking an exact phrase you should probably place quotations around that phrase.  For example for the phrase Internet Marketing, if you don’t place quotations around the phrase you will likely get results of any time the word “internet” and the word “marketing” appears independent of each other.  However if you only want to be notified when the words “internet” and “marketing” appear together, place that phrase inside quotations like this: “internet marketing”

Use the minus sign:
If you want to exclude words to prevent triggering alerts use a “-” sign.  For example if you want to receive alerts for “Honda Accord” but prevent receiving alerts for “Honda Accord LX” then create the alert:  “Honda Accord -LX”

Site search:
If you want to create alerts that monitor specific websites you can create alerts that only trigger for those websites.  For example if you live in Sarasota, want to buy a Honda Accord, and you want to be alerted any time a Honda Accord is posted on your city’s CraigsList page your alert would look like this: “honda accord site: sarasota.craigslist.org”


Step 4
Customize your alert further by clicking on “Show options”

Google Alert

Set how often you receive alerts, sources, where to have the alerts delivered, etc.  You typically will want to receive a daily digest for your alerts.  But if something extremely newsworthy has happened regarding your business (especially something negative) you may want to bump that up to “As it happens” so you can react to mentions more quickly.  For the “How many” dropdown you may want to start with “All Results” until you see what alerts you’re receiving.  If you’re receiving poor quality results you may want to adjust the alert phrases or select “Only the best results”.

Google Alert

Click the “Create Alert” button when finished.


Step 5
You will likely need to refine your alerts over time, especially if you are getting too many results (or maybe none at all!)  Keep tweaking until you’re receiving the alerts you need!

Google Alert


Other Suggestions
Remember that Google Alerts mostly monitors websites, news sites and blogs.  If you want to monitor mentions on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. you’ll need to look at some other tools.  Here are just a few options to explore:

Mention
https://en.mention.com

SumAll

Managing your online reputation is an extremely important part of your overall online marketing strategy.  Keep in mind besides monitoring mentions using tools like the ones above, you should also be monitoring review websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Google My Business and many others.  The best way to monitor these websites is to make sure you have claimed your business profile on each of these websites so you receive alerts whenever someone leaves a review for your business.  Many review sites give you tools to comment on reviews or dispute the validity of them.  If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is!  The internet is a huge place so there is a lot of effort involved on staying on top of it all!

 

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Manatee Chamber News Seminar

Date posted: April 1, 2015

Troy Newport from Webtivity Marketing & Design will be participating in a panel discussion of local news organizations and advertising agencies.  Not sure how to contact reporters?  Write a press release?  Track your company’s mentions online?  Learn from the pros how to develop your advertising campaign, track your brand and stage an event (press conference, new programs, business programs).  Plus, instructions on using the Chamber’s Press Release Tool.


What: News Seminarnews-seminar
When: 4/8/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Where: Manatee Chamber of Commerce
4215 Concept Court
The McClure Center
Lakewood Ranch, FL 34211

Sign up today!

The cost is only $25 for Manatee Chamber and MYP Members, $21 for Non-Profit members and $35 for Potential Members.


The following companies and organizations have contributed panelists for this informative discussion:

  • 1420AM WBRD
  • ABC 7 WWSB
  • Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper
  • Anna Maria Islander
  • Bay News 9
  • Bradenton Herald
  • Gulf Coast Business Review
  • Gulfshore Media
  • Hometown News USA
  • iHeartMedia
  • JOY FM WJIS 88.1
  • Living on the Suncoast Magazine
  • Manatee Educational Television (METV)
  • Manatee Herald-Tribune
  • Mediatec
  • SNN Local News
  • SRQ Media Group
  • Tampa Bay Times
  • Webtivity Marketing & Design

Sign up today!

The cost is only $25 for Manatee Chamber and MYP Members, $21 for Non-Profit members and $35 for Potential Members.

 

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Your Website Traffic Has Dropped!!!

Date posted: March 26, 2015

If you’ve had a website for any length of time you’ve likely been spammed by someone who claims to be an expert, specialist, guru, Jedi, or whatever other self-aggrandizing expression they use to describe their online marketing prowess.  The email probably told you they’ve noticed your rankings have dropped, you can’t be found on the major search engines, blah, blah, blah..

Unfortunately a lot of people still fall for these urgent-sounding emails.  They don’t realize thousands of people received the exact same email, and these people never saw your website before.  Furthermore, unless they have access to your Analytics software, there is no real way for them to know your “traffic dropped”.

These spam emails are just as bogus as these greatest hits:

  • This email is from UPS: we can’t deliver your package so open this attached ZIP file (don’t worry there’s no virus in there)
  • This is a Chinese domain registration company and someone has sent an application to register your domain name in our country
  • I’m your friend and stuck in a foreign country because my wallet was stolen–please wire me money quickly
  • You’ve just won the Nigerian lottery
  • I just got an inheritance but need your help to get it–don’t worry I’ll share some of it with you

Even though the Webtivity website ranks very well in multiple cities for many, many key phrases (we are an internet marketing company after all) we get these emails too. Every. Single. Frickin’. Day.  And guess what?  Even Google gets these emails too!


From Google Webmaster Tools:
(source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en)

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue. Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.


Here are some tips for not getting scammed by someone supposedly selling “SEO services” (or Viagra, weight loss pills, etc.):

  1. If they’re emailing you out of the blue trying to sell you something and you’ve never heard of them before:  Hit the SPAM button really really hard.
  2. If they spammed you through your website Contact Form:  Swear at them and delete it.
  3. If they emailed you from a free email account like Gmail or Hotmail realize it’s because they are spamming the crap out of everyone until the email address gets shut down.  Plus you can’t track them down once they steal your money.
  4. If the spam email says “Reply to this email with ‘Unsubscribe’ if you no longer want to receive emails from us” do NOT reply (unless you want to verify to a spammer that your email address is legit and receive MORE spam.)
  5. If the email says “Click this link to…” do NOT click the link (unless you want to verify to a spammer that your email address is legit AND/OR go to a website that will install malware on your computer.)

One final question for you to consider:  If your website ranks so poorly.. HOW DID THEY FIND YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE???

Peace out.

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Reducing Friction for Your Customers

Date posted: March 12, 2015

If Disney spent a Billion–yes with a B–dollars on an initiative, you should probably pay attention, right?  (That’s a trick question, the answer is Yes.)

What did they spend all that money on?  Friction reduction.  That means they are trying to make it easier to do business with them.  They want you to get you through the most potentially mundane and frustrating parts of your trip to the Magical Kingdom as seamless as possible, and insure they are truly the Happiest Place on Earth.  And they’re doing it with technology, of course!Disney MagicBand

You may not care about magical MagicBand wristbands and how it helps them identify patrons by name as they approach the gate, personalizing the experience.  You may not care the Magical Wristband allows you to order your meal before you get to the restaurant and be able to sit down as soon as you get there and have your food find you not long after you sit down.  You may not give a rip that the technology of the MagicBand can allow Disney to track how you interact with their parks, giving them business intelligence and reduce choke points in the park and make your future experiences less congested. 

However, you should care about the broader point that the MagicBand helps customers have a more personalized experience, as free from friction as possible. 

Now I challenge you to think about what frictions your customers experience when they: visit your website; call your office; visit your store; pay for services; receive customer service; etc.  The more friction customers have through the process of doing business with your company, the more likely they will look for a more frictionless place to do business.  Put yourself in your customers’ Mickey Mouse flip-flops from time to time and walk a mile in their shoes.  How easy it is to do business with your company?  The insights you gain could be priceless!

If you want to find out more about the Disney MagicBand*:
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/bands-cards

* Just in case you’re wondering this isn’t any type of sponsored post and we aren’t receiving any remuneration for this post–we’re just technology fans talking about cool ways that cool companies are using it!

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My Job Made Me Smile Today

Date posted: February 19, 2015

Today I was on a call with a client based in Ohio and he said something that reminded me why I come to work every day.  “Almost all of our competitors from when we first started working together have gone out of business.  What you guys have done for us has helped us stay in the game.” Smiling Breakfast

Wow.  What a compliment!

I was smiling but didn’t quite know how to respond.  “Well that’s very nice of you to say,” I think I finally said.

Of course we can’t take all the credit, and would never suppose to try.  Their company constantly investigates bringing new products to market, seeks new strategic partners, looks for ways to diversify, stays in touch with their customers and strives to provide the best products and services possible.  Sometimes companies that don’t do all those things look to agencies like ours to be miracle workers while operating on a shoestring budget and being intransigent in how they are positioned in the marketplace.  We will never be a good fit in those situations.

But when we can partner with smart, forward-thinking businesses magic can happen!  And that makes me smile and feel like I’m doing something worthwhile in the world.

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The Myopia of SEO

Date posted: February 11, 2015

It’s not your fault — you’ve been conditioned to ask for it.  It’s a buzzword you’ve heard over and over again.  You’ve gone to workshops, you’ve read blogs, you’ve seen ads for it, you get spam through your website every day for it.  “Rank #1!”  SEO SEO SEO. 

What if I told you SEO isn’t the be-all-end-all?  Does that sound strange coming from an internet marketing company? 

First let me be clear that SEO is important.  If people can’t find your website when they do a Google search you are leaving a TON of business to your competitors.  But just because your website ranks on Google’s coveted first page doesn’t guarantee success.  We have plenty of companies come to us because they ARE ranking on the 1st page for relevant search phrases and getting lots of traffic — but they aren’t getting any business!  How could that be?  Poor usability and poor messaging are two top reasons people come to your website and leave without contacting you. Screenshot_2015-02-06-15-34-47

Usability
If your website is difficult to navigate or users can’t view your website properly on their device you are losing business.  For example using Flash on your website prevents people using Apple devices from accessing those areas of your website.  If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website people who arrive on a smartphone will have a significantly higher Bounce Rate. 

According to research done by Google, U.S. smartphone owners use their phones as follows:
– 96% use it at home
– 83% use it on the go
– 76% in a store
– 70% in a restaurant
– 69% at work

Often people do their initial research on their smartphones because it’s the most convenient place for them to do so.  Which website would you rather browse on your smartphone in the screenshots above?  The website on the right is missing out on a lot business.  Guaranteed if you look at their Google Analytics the Bounce Rate is extremely high for people who arrive on their smartphone.  (By the way I checked–they don’t even HAVE Google Analytics installed on their website!)

Messaging
When people arrive at your website it needs to look professional, and it also needs to “sell” your company with the right messaging.   Messaging is one of the most overlooked facets when companies have their websites redesigned.  Why?  Because they hire individual web designers instead of full service agencies that have the expertise to look at all aspects of your design and marketing.  Web designers are traditionally trained in visual design, but not in marketing.  If your website looks good but doesn’t succinctly explain your value and capabilities, you’re can’t differentiate yourself from your competitors when potential customers are comparison shopping.

Marketing your website online has become a multi-faceted affair, incorporating design, traditional marketing, search engine optimization, social media, paid advertising, content development, ecommerce and mobile.  Any of these facets you ignore allows your competitors to get in front of your potential customers.  That’s why rankings and SEO shouldn’t be the sole focus for your online marketing strategy.

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Webtivity Selected for Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber Social Media Campaign

Date posted: February 3, 2015

Webtivity has been selected to develop a comprehensive social media strategy for the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.  The initial phase of the relationship will include optimizing tampa-bay-beaches-logoexisting social media properties and evaluating current strategies.  Future phases will include refining messaging, cultivating a more active audience in the areas of tourism and local business, and eventually exploring monetization strategies.  Webtivity has consulted with other Chambers of Commerce in the Tampa Bay Area to deploy similar strategies.

The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce serves beach communities from Sand Key in northern Pinellas County to Pass-A-Grille in the south.  The Chamber serves tourism related businesses who leverage the Chamber to promote the area and their companies, as well as service businesses who leverage the Chamber as a means of networking with the local business community to identify potential customers and strategic partners.  The Chamber is an independent, non-profit corporation and was created in its current form in 1997, when three previously autonomous chambers joined forces to better promote the Tampa Bay Beaches area as a whole and offer visitor centers for tourists.

For more information on the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce:
http://www.tampabaybeaches.com

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Workshop: The Evolution of SEO

Date posted: October 24, 2014

Search Engine Optimization has evolved, and that means your strategies must evolve too!  Join Troy Newport of Webtivity Marketing & Design as he explains how the internet views your business and can introduce potential customers to your door–if you do things right!  Some of the topics to be covered:

  • meaning of “semantic search”
  • role of Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • how PayPerClick should play a role in your strategy

Search Engine Optimization isn’t a set of magical tricks you play on Google every so often–it is part of an ongoing marketing strategy you must be prepared to nurture as long as you want to attract new customers and keep your current customers engaged with your brand.

Manatee-Chamber-Logo_125th_2c-transparent

WHEN:
Thursday, November 6, 2014
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM

WHERE:
Manatee Chamber of Commerce
4215 Concept Court
The McClure Center
Lakewood Ranch, FL 34211

webtivity-marketing-design
Register Online Today 
Space is Limited!

(Prefer to register by phone? Call Lisa at 941-748-4842, ext. 12)

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The Snapchat Discussion We Should Be Having

Date posted: October 21, 2014

Since “The Snappening” happened last week and tens of thousands of photos and videos leaked onto the internet several people have asked my opinion about it.  During conversations some have said things like, “Don’t take naked pictures of yourself and send them to people if you don’t want them going public!”  Others have exclaimed, “We entrust these companies with our stuff, they should be sued out of existence when this happens!”  No matter which side of the issue you come down on there are larger discussions we should be having about technology and the perceived safety of our information.

Your Information Is Not Safe
Before going any further, understand this truth: Your information is never completely safe once it hits the internet.  Emails, banking information, credit card information, healthcare information, family photos, nude photos.  None of it.  Hopefully that isn’t a revelation?  Any information you send or share over the internet has a chance of being seen by someone you didn’t intend to see it.  Sometimes things you don’t think are being stored are being saved by web browsers, search engines, Internet Service Providers, mobile devices, and the applications you use.

Corporate and Industry Responsibility
not responsibleSomehow it seems the public forgets that technology is subject to all the same human paradigms as any other product or service we use.  There are people who develop apps who make mistakes.  People maintaining hosting infrastructure who simply aren’t very good at their job.  People responsible for penetration testing who are distracted because of strained relationships with their significant others.  People who work as Chief Technology Officers at major corporations who are lazy.  Corporate decision-makers who determine it’s “cheaper” to keep older, vulnerable technical infrastructure rather than invest in newer and better technologies.  People in other positions of importance who do wrong on purpose for whatever reason.  Unfortunately on top of all these possible failure points are arguments and power struggles in our industry over best practice standards.  Also factor in that newer technologies are often adopted in their infancy without significant testing.   And in the midst of all that criminals are waiting for the perfect storm of human conditions to come together and provide a golden opportunity to score big. 

Who knows how many of the possible failure points listed above contributed to The Snappening, the Target breach, Home Depot breach, Dairy Queen breach, Jimmy Johns breach…  but hackers have been sending a crystal clear message there are gaping holes in our systems.  So what steps are we taking to put better systems in place?  To insure better quality control?  To test newer technologies before introducing them to the mainstream ecosystem?  We know that costs money.  Are companies willing to make the investments?  Are consumers willing to bear some of that cost that will inevitably trickle down to us?  Only if consumers get concerned, involved and demand it will meaningful change happen.  We could hope that Washington would get their shit together and begin passing meaningful legislation in this area, but the unfortunate truth is that our federal government is typically years behind the technology curve, and of course highly susceptible to lobbying efforts.

Education and Personal Responsibility
It’s not in my place to make moral judgements here about people sending naked pictures of themselves, and that’s not the purpose of this article.  I do however believe just as it is an app developer’s responsibility to use best practices, thoroughly test their products, and clearly communicate best practice security measures to their users (not bury them in the T’s and C’s), it is also the responsibility of users to become educated and responsible technology consumers.  Most people should be aware by now you should have anti-virus software installed on your devices, and you should use strong passwords.  But yet there are so many people out there who don’t!  If you don’t use anti-virus and you’re still using passwords like “password”, then I have a hard time feeling sorry for you if someone breaks into your computer or cloud storage account and steals your stuff.  For the cost of a week’s worth of latte’s at your favorite coffee shop you can have a trusted anti-virus program on your computer.  For a fraction of that you can also buy a password keeper program to help you generate and store secure passwords for every website you use.  These programs are crucial to practicing safe surfing habits online, and they are not expensive.  What you decide to send and share from there is up to you, just understand the risks involved.

Risk Versus Reward
No matter how many best practices you and the services you use follow, there are still failure points in all the technologies we use.  As with anything else in our lives we need to weigh the risks versus the rewards, do our best to educate ourselves, try not to make bad decisions, and then hold on tight!  In my opinion the benefits of the internet and technology far outweigh the risks when developed and used responsibly by all parties involved.  Unfortunately right now WWW is still the Wild Wild West, and it’s going to keep getting uglier until everyone involved commits to a safer, more secure web.  How we achieve that is the real discussion we should be having.

_

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Facebook “Nearby Friends” Setting

Date posted: August 7, 2014

Every so often I check my Facebook settings to make sure they didn’t surreptitiously change my privacy settings.  Last night I checked my “Nearby Friends” setting to make sure I’m not sharing my current location to hundreds of people I don’t really know.  It was turned off.  Good!

Except, wait a minute…  Near the bottom of the screen was a message that said: “100 friends are sharing their location with you” with thumbnails of a few friend’s profile pictures.    Looking at the profile pictures I instantly recognized many of them.  Some are likely sharing their location on purpose.  Some I’m pretty sure are unknowingly sharing their location.  If you want to double check your Nearby Friends setting read on.

Follow the instructions below to turn Nearby Friends on or off on an iPhone or Android (Android displayed below but instructions are the same):
1.  Tap More 

Facebook Home

2.  Tap Nearby Friends

Nearby Friends

3.  Tap 

Screenshot_2014-08-06-10-18-38

4.  In the Nearby Friends section slide to Off

Screenshot_2014-08-06-10-29-06

If you do want to share your location but only with a select group of friends, you’ll need to log into Facebook on your laptop or desktop to create a custom Friends group.  Follow the instructions below:

1.  Go to your News Feed (easiest way to get there is to click on the Home button near the top right.)

Facebook News Feed

2.  Go the Friends section in the left column and hover your mouse over the word Friends.  A “More” option will pop up; click on it.

Facebook1

3.  You will now see your current Lists.  You can either assign friends to an existing list that you want to use for Nearby Friends, or click on “Create List” to make a new one that you will use exclusively for this purpose.

Facebook Custom List

4.  Now you can go to your phone, select the list you just created, and turn on Nearby Friends to share your location with that list of Friends.

Turn On Nearby Friends

There you go!  You now know how to turn off Facebook Nearby Friends or at least use it more responsibly.

Good luck!

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My Lawyer Made Me Change the Title of this Blog Post

Date posted: July 31, 2014

Whenever I hear clients ask about Yext, it’s all I can do to stop myself from facepalming. That being said, Yext is not without appeal. I understand local search optimization to the average person is at best confusing, and the relationship between local ecosystem directories can easily be described as “complicated”.  Patience is certainly a virtue when building local citations manually, as it can take months before you begin to see any value. Yext Logo

Yext’s data distribution, however allows for the listings to be live much sooner. Its speed and simplicity are among its most coveted features. Yext is very user friendly – just plug in your company information and Yext blasts it throughout the interwebs on the promised directories. It’s not a terrible solution if your company is brand new.   

On the other hand, it’s also my opinion that Yext is a clever one trick pony used to quickly disperse information throughout select directories,  but as someone who takes the time and effort to hunt down valuable directories and enhance listings, my opinion is somewhat biased. While Yext is many things, it’s certainly not inexpensive at approximately $500 a year. Yext is also not a substitute for managing how your business is presented on the internet and can lead to duplicate listings which can hurt your rankings.  So while a professional can catch and report or delete those duplicates, Yext can’t. Those duplicates will then continue to circulate as they are scraped and further distributed.

Yext can also make you complacent.  Sure it’s great that Yext blasted out your business information, but how is that information being displayed? Did your quote character (”) turn into strange code or is your logo being distorted? Does the directory give you an opportunity to enhance the listing with additional information that Yext didn’t ask for? And while the promise of ~50 listings can be alluring, some of the most powerful ones aren’t mentioned on Yext’s site – like Google Plus, Yellow pages, or Manta.  

In our industry you quickly get to appreciate the power the internet represents.  While I am always amazed at the advancements in technology, I would argue there are still things that require human intervention.  The ability to find opportunities specific to your industry or to your business and to use them to your advantage is something that requires a little something more than a computer program.  

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Still Looking for the Magic Pill

Date posted: July 22, 2014

Business owners are constantly bombarded with marketing messages from companies in our industry:

“#1 Google Rankings Guaranteed!”
“5000 Facebook Followers in a Week!”
“Get Rid of Negative Reviews!”

Yelp released a PSA to their business owners warning of reputation management companies who claim to work with Yelp to perform services such as removing negative reviews, boost ratings, etc.   We get these same SPAM emails, and we also get phone calls from people claiming to be with Google.  Not because they really think we need their help, but because they are blanketing the world with their scams in hopes to find those consumers still looking for the magic pill to solve all their marketing pains.  Think about your marketing solutions like this:  Remember those burn-fat-at-nite pills didn’t work for you, but exercise and a smart diet did?  Your marketing solutions are going to present themselves in the exact same way.  Fads will waste your time and money, but dedication and strategic planning will begin to solve your daily business challenges.

The content of the Yelp PSA is below for your reading enjoyment:yelp

Important Public Service Announcement
Darnell Holloway, Business Outreach

We’ve recently seen several new reports about “reputation management” companies that claim to work with Yelp to remove your negative reviews, recommend certain reviews, or otherwise boost your ratings for a fee (of course!). If you’re wondering how these companies can make good on this offer, the answer is simple: they can’t. Consumer trust is our top concern, so businesses can’t pay Yelp or any third party to alter or remove their reviews. It’s also worth noting that brazen attempts to manipulate ratings and reviews on Yelp could result in a Consumer Alert being placed on your business profile.

If you’ve been contacted by someone offering something along these lines, we’d love to get the details so we can prevent them from preying on others. Please use this form to loop us in. For general questions, contact our user support team at www.yelp.com/contact.

Finally, as we’ve said in the past, the best strategy for reputation management is to provide great customer service and respond diplomatically to your reviewers.

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Disillusion With AdWords

Date posted: July 17, 2014

We hear increasingly from potential clients they don’t want to use Google AdWords because “we did that for a while and all we did was burn through a bunch of money with no return.”  We have had great success leveraging AdWords for our clients so we know it can work–if done properly.  In order to “save money” businesses set up their own campaigns instead of hiring a trustworthy consultant.  While creating a few ads and putting your credit card on file with Google is easy enough for almost anyone to do, setting up your campaign and managing it properly takes years of experience and data analysis know-how.  We find there are four common themes that lead to businesses getting disillusioned with AdWords:

You Can’t Set It and Forget Itgoogle
Running a successful AdWords campaign does require ongoing management.  Your competitors are constantly changing their bids, consumer demand changes often, Google changes the way AdWords works from time to time, and on top of all that you need to determine which of your ad campaigns aren’t working very well and either make changes to them or pause them altogether.  Most often the biggest mistake we see is businesses set up their account, throw a big budget at the campaign, and then they just let it run and run and run.  That’s a perfect way to get disappointed by AdWords.

Don’t Always Listen to Google
When you log into your AdWords account often you will see messages from Google telling you things like, “There are 83 keywords you should add to your campaign!” and other similar advice.  The common person thinks, “Since Google is telling me to do this I had better listen!”    But our experience often leads us to NOT listen to those automated messages that pop up when we log into an AdWords account.  Remember these are automated messages that are designed to try to be helpful, but you can’t treat them as gospel.

Tracking the Wrong Metrics
Another colossal No-No is to simply track “clicks” as your primary success metric.  It’s easy enough to get clicks–just set a big budget and target a bunch of non-qualified crap and you’ll get tons of clicks!  Will that get you business?  Heck no.  When clients bring their unsuccessful AdWords accounts to us we are almost always able to reduce their monthly ad budget as we optimize and tighten their campaigns.  On top of that we are tracking even more important metrics than simple clicks: how long people stay on the website once they’ve clicked on an ad; and even more importantly, whether they fill out a contact form or purchase a product once they got to your Landing Page.

Find the Right Partner
We have often been shocked and saddened by campaigns we see from other supposedly reputable companies in our industry.  Your AdWords account should be set up in YOUR name with YOUR credit card on the account.  That gives you ownership and non-restricted access to your campaign.  When you’re hiring a company to help with your campaign make sure they are asking questions about your products and services, the types of clients you want to target, the geographic areas you want to target.  They should be talking to you about the importance of remarketing campaigns, the importance of monitoring and improving your campaign Quality Scores, and most importantly they should be talking about how they will measure and track conversions using Google Analytics.  A click is great, but a conversion is what will make the campaign a viable marketing tactic for your business.

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Your Website is a Fashion Statement

Date posted: July 11, 2014

Retro housewifeWhat to wear for today? Am I trying to look casual or formal? Do I wear the blue button down or the red polo? Should I sport the blazer or leave it at home? These are all questions most of us face every day. We wake up determined to look our best. Most of us adhere to certain fashion principles because we want to attract the right kind of attention.

If you are going out on a date you dress to impress. If you are going to a business function you dress to look the part. If you went to a business function wearing tight leather pants and a leather vest you would probably not be well received, that is, unless you are Channing Tatum. You would attract a lot of attention, but not the right kind of attention.

Fashion also changes all the time. It used to be fashionable to wear powdered wigs. Fortunately, that fashion statement ended over a century ago. I do not consider myself to be an expert on fashion but I am at least able to wear the right colors together. I know that socks and sandals are considered a fashion faux pas. Most people accept these unwritten fashion norms as law. What surprises me, however, is the unwillingness of people to invest the same amount of time and energy into their website as they would their clothes or haircut.

Your website is a virtual extension of you or your business. In today’s modern world people will often visit an individual or business online before they visit them in person. Your website will often be the first thing someone sees before they physically visit your store. If you do not have a brick and mortar store than it is even more important that your website looks impeccable. People are going to make their initial judgments about you or your company based off of what they see online. Just like fashion, web design changes as well. What used to be a good looking website in 1999 is probably not a good looking website today. So, unless you want to get the awkward stares and bad snap judgments, I’d recommend keeping your website (and your closet) up-to-date.

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The Founding Fathers and Summer Heat

Date posted: July 3, 2014

This blog is going to be a little out of the ordinary for a tech and marketing company, but because the long July 4th weekend is upon us it is completely fitting.

Our country declared independence from Great Britain 238 years ago this Friday.

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It is remarkable that the United States, a country of little significance at the time, was able to win a war against arguably the world’s best army. What is truly extraordinary, however, is that the United States was able to become the great country that it is today. How did we do it? How did the United States become so great? There are thousands of reasons why this country became the wonderful place it is now but the one that stands out the most is the ingenuity of our Founding Fathers to construct the Constitution. The push to create a more effective system of government began 11 years after we declared independence in the summer of 1787. The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia that started it all took place during an extremely hot and humid summer. 

I would like to take this time to point out the obvious fact that our Founding Fathers did not have air conditioning. As they debated hours on end about the functionality of the Constitution they also sweat through their clothes. To make matters worse, they preferred their proper fashion, that is, they wore stuffy vests and coats. Temperatures were high and so were tempers, but despite the heat they were still able to come together to finish what they had started.

As we prepare to enjoy fireworks and barbecues this Friday we should also be preparing for the heat. Drinking lots of water and wearing sunscreen are just a few of the essentials for those who plan on basking in the hot sun this independence day. For those of you who are planning on skipping out on the hot summer activities, I would like you to take a moment and reflect. If our Founding Fathers had had the luxury of air conditioning the United States may have never come into existence. The heat would not have pushed them towards a thorough and swift construction of one of the best documents ever written.  My recommendation, therefore, is this: enjoy the heat this July 4th weekend, sweat a little, and you may think of something that could change the course of history.

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Breaking Up is Easy to Do

Date posted: July 2, 2014

We’ve all been through breakups.  Sometimes you think things are going along just fine, then WHAM your S.O. tells you to shove off.  If you really cared about that person you probably asked a few questions.   What went wrong?  Is there something we could have done differently?  Is there a chance to make things work out?

You would expect the same thing from a company when a customer tells them to take a hike, especially if they truly valued that customer’s business.  I have told this story many times over the past several years so I thought it was time to write about it:558914_17615479

When I moved to Florida years ago I opened an account with a large bank.  Over time I regretted that decision and thought about changing to a small local bank or maybe even a credit union.  But change sometimes seems more inconvenient than just sticking with the status quo, so I stayed where I was. 

Enter my need to buy a new car.

Just as I began looking for a new car, I received a well-timed email from my bank promoting a 4.9% APR car loan (which was pretty good at the time).  The email said I was receiving the offer because of my excellent credit history.  So I took the time to meet with a loan officer.  The woman who processed my application seemed short on time and not particularly interested in my business.  But I got through the appointment and was told I would hear from their loan department by email.  After several days I received the email, but it informed me I did not qualify for the 4.9% rate.  Instead they were offering me a 7.5% APR?!  Considering my credit was spotless and they initiated the whole thing with a “pre-approved 4.9% APR” email, I couldn’t understand why now I only qualified for 7.5% APR.  I contacted the pleasant loan officer I originally met with and she flatly said that’s their decision and there’s nothing she can do about it.  Did I want to move forward?  No, I told her, I’d like to consider my options.  She abruptly ended the call and didn’t seem to care.

So I went to a small local bank, opened an account, and within the first week I had a car loan approved at 2.9% APR!  I promptly called the big bank and closed all my accounts and credit cards with them.  When I went to the bank to close my account they didn’t seem to care I was leaving.  To this day I have never received a correspondence asking why I chose to no longer do business with them.  I suppose when you get too big to fail you don’t have to care how you treat your customers any more?

Overall this is a lesson for any business, big or small.  Sure, bad customer service seems endemic in certain industries or when dealing with larger corporations.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Apple is known for their customer-centric service, and they are both large and a technology company.  If your company doesn’t pay attention to customer experience and service it will be very easy for customers to break up with you.  And if you act as though you don’t care they are leaving, they will never come back even if they find the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. 

 

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The BASICS

Date posted: June 26, 2014

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day and he was complaining about how younger people in today’s workforce “just don’t get it”.  He opined they don’t understand the basics of how to provide great customer service, communicate properly, problem solve.  I reminded him not all younger people should be stereotyped like that because I do know younger people in the workforce who do have those skills.  And besides I posited, if our younger generation truly doesn’t have those skills, isn’t it the older generations that failed to teach them those skills? 

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After a sideways look and a grumble about “the basics” interlaced with a swear word or two he changed the subject.

So in the spirit of teaching “the basics” I made up an acronym to contribute to the cause:

Be Early
Nothing drives me crazier than people being late to a meeting.  If you strive to be early to a meeting or on a deadline, you’ll always at least be on time.  I work in an industry where literally time means money, so I’m hyper-aware of this paradigm.

Always Listen
It seems these days people prefer to talk about themselves rather than listen.  If you’re in sales this is an especially important habit to learn.  People will give you clues about what they’re really looking for if you intently listen to what they say.

Say You Don’t Know
If you don’t know the answer to a question don’t just make something up that sounds good.  You should be more afraid of being wrong than admitting you don’t know the answer to a question.  Admit you’re not sure of the answer, promise to find out the answer and then follow through.

Integrity is Key
It seems honesty doesn’t have its place in today’s world.  The rarer integrity becomes the more important it will be to put into practice.

Check and Double Check
If you quickly perform a task and make a mistake it often takes more time to fix it and deal with the ramifications than it does to simply proof your work in the first place. 

Synergy
Some people seem to thrive on causing friction in the world around them.  It takes much less energy to cooperate with the people around you.  Life is difficult enough without producing more strife.

If we all strive to follow the BASICS wouldn’t our lives be more relaxed?  Perhaps that’s the next acronym to tackle:  RELAX.  While you do that I’m going on VACATION. 

 

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The Honesty Policy

Date posted: May 21, 2014

Marketing comes with its challenges, especially if you’re a brand new company.  You’re meeting with prospective clients and they all want to speak with past clients as a reference–but you have none because you’re a start-up.  This is gut check time.  Do you take shortcuts to establish credibility for your business, or do you use your imagination and get creative? 

We see people in our industry playing games all the time to establish credibility. Here are just a few things to watch for if you’re hiring an internet marketing company:

Google Partnergoogle-partner
We love seeing the Google Partner logo on internet marketing and web design company websites, yet for some reason you can’t click on the logo and go view their profile on the Google Partner site??  Upon further inspection by going to the Google Partner directory and searching for them, they have no profile!  Wow.

As Seen On
We also love seeing “Featured on Inc 500” or some other impressive website.  Oddly however they don’t provide a link to that story..  You would think if they were actually featured on an impressive website they would have written a blog post about it, took some screenshots, did a press release?   Then you go to that website and search for the story they did on that company and there are no results?!  How interesting…  and for some reason they don’t have any blog posts or press releases on their website touting the fact they were featured on such a prestigious website.  Wouldn’t you at least write a blog post about it if you were featured on a high profile industry website?

We Did Work for ‘X’ Mega-Corporation!
This is a squishy one.  Some major corporations (including Disney) advertise for freelancers to work on specialty projects for them and offer very little (or no) monetary compensation.  As compensation they may provide the rights to promote the fact you did work for them.   So technically, yes they did work for that large brand, but when you know the whole backstory it isn’t quite as impressive.  So when you see someone promote they did work for ‘X’ Mega-Corporation, ask yourself this simple question:  If they are doing work for big corporations like this, why would they want to work with me? 

Have you seen competitors in your industry make claims you know are false (or don’t pass the smell test?)  Chances are you can probably sniff out a competitor in your industry being less than honest pretty easily because you know your industry inside and out.  By educating your clients on potential pitfalls for consumers seeking products or services in your industry you help generate goodwill for your company.  Blogging and social media are great mediums to do this type of education with consumers.  So go forth and edumacate!

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Marketing and Public Relations Workshop – May 14

Date posted: May 7, 2014

The Sarasota Chamber has partnered with the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and the Florida Public Relations Association to present a Marketing and Public Relations Workshop on Wednesday, May 14 at the Polo Grill.  The workshop will feature an opening keynote followed by a choice of three workshops, which you can pick two.

Troy Newport of  Webtivity Marketing & Design will be presenting a workshop titled, “Content Marketing: Creating Outside the Box“.  This workshop will offer tips and suggestions to tackle the difficult task of creating unique content for your human audience, dispersing it through blogging, social media and other channels while making it work for search engine purposes too.

webtivity-logo

Workshops will be followed by a Luncheon and Keynote presentation “7 Reasons Why This Year Will Be Great” by Doug Van Dyke.

To register please visit the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance website www.lwrba.org

WHAT
Marketing and Public Relations Workshop

WHERE
Polo Grill (map it)

WHEN
Wednesday, May 14 from 8am – 1:30pm

See you there!

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Change Your Yahoo Password

Date posted: April 24, 2014

If you haven’t been paying attention to your email, Yahoo issued the warning below to their users to change their account passwords.  So be sure to do it!  NOW!!

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Hi Troy,

The safety of your Yahoo account, [USERNAME], is important.

We’re asking users to change their passwords due to recent security incidents online. While Yahoo systems were not affected, we may take extra precaution and lock user accounts when we detect unusual activity.

Please sign in to Yahoo and change your password.

If you have additional questions about account safety, please visit our Help page or contact us at: https://io.help.yahoo.com/contact.

Thanks,
Yahoo

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Junior Leadership Manatee Accepting Applications Now

Date posted: April 22, 2014

Attention all high school sophomores!!  The Junior Leadership Manatee program is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 class.  Applications must be postmarked by May 30, 2014 to be considered.

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Junior Leadership is designed for teens interested in becoming future leaders by enhancing their knowledge of community resources, current issues and other factors influencing the direction of Manatee County’s future.  Throughout the program participants gain special access to local business, government, agricultural and media staples in our community and learn what career and employment opportunities are available in our county.  

The cost to participate is $150 for those students who meet eligibility requirements.  Junior Leadership is a unique and invaluable experience students can include on their resume or college application.

junior-leadership-logoFor eligibility requirements and more information on the Junior Leadership Manatee program please visit the official website:
www.juniorleadershipmanatee.org

 

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Buying Facebook Likes Is Bad

Date posted: April 17, 2014

I love spam.  Not in the sense of actually loving it because really I HATE it.  (I’m using the word “hate” here, as Melvin Udall said.)  But I love it because it gives me so many topics to blog about and show our clients why the crap people are selling you on the internet is just that:  Crap. 

Take the spam message we received on our Facebook company page (see image below.)  People are still selling Facebook Likes, which means people are still buying them.  If consumers would wise up and stop buying this guff do you know how much spam would instantly go away?!  As long as there’s money to be made these people will still continue to fill your inbox with spam!buy-facebook-likes

So why is buying Facebook Likes bad for your company and your Facebook page?

The Likers will never buy from you and will never be loyal to your brand
If the new Likes are generated by real people, those people are likely located in third world countries and made a nickel or a dime to Like your Facebook page.  They will never purchase anything from you, never have anything constructive to contribute to your Facebook page, and will never share your brand with a potential customer.  Even worse, the Like may have been generated by a bot, and as far as I know bots don’t have any buying power yet. (Yet.)

You won’t have those Likers for long
In 2012 Facebook announced they were taking extensive steps to weed out fake accounts and fake Likes.  The process is automated of course, so not only have companies seen fake Likes go away, they’ve also seen some legit ones scrubbed too.

Your Facebook page will still look like a ghost town
If your Likes are fake, people aren’t going to comment on and share your content.  When people comment on and share your content it helps to boost your message and get it in front of more people, and also helps your SEO.  

Facebook Promotions to fake Likers
If you plan on promoting your posts you’re going to pay to promote those posts to fake Likers.  Talk about throwing good money after bad!!

So just like absolutely everything else in the internet marketing industry, shortcuts will yield you fake short-term gains and absolutely no long-term payoff.  If a company is selling you tricks and sleight of hand it’s not because they care about your company, it’s because they are trying to make money off of you.  Any solid marketing company will be up front with you that marketing is honest, hard work and as long as you own your company you must be actively and effectively marketing if you want to thrive and grow.  It’s not as easy to sell that message but it’s just the way it is.

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The Internet is Dead!

Date posted: April 9, 2014

In the headline-driven web and the bumper sticker world in which we live, misinformation is all around us.  Bloggers and news websites write candy-coated headlines to try to entice the all-important click to their website, and information consumers are so inundated with noise they don’t take the time to truly read any longer.  In the olden days (oh yeah I’m feeling old now) people would read the newspaper front to back.  It was their  daily source of written media and they would take the time to read it cover to cover.   Now we glance at our social media and blog feeds and scroll past tens and hundreds of messages per day all competing for our attention. peace

As such bloggers and news sites have to write headlines that make you stop and click.  You’ll see things like “The Internet is Dead” and other bold headlines that make you go hmmm.  But then if you actually click through and read the story you’ll find toward the end of the story the writer may say something like, “So the internet isn’t REALLY dead, but…” and spin the story to fit the headline.  Sometimes I get mad when I actually get to the point of the story because I feel like I was duped into reading something that wasn’t really about the topic I thought it was in the first place.  Kind of like people who saw my title, “The Internet is Dead” and thought it may be some thought-provoking article from an internet marketing company about how our industry is dying.  (Sorry folks, but the internet is here to stay so you’d better learn how to leverage it for your business.)

Unfortunately these misleading headlines make it extremely difficult for information consumers to sort through the noise and make judgements as to whether the information they scan is accurate.  If our technology channels are molding a “scanning culture” I wonder how our children will fare in processing and learning new information?  People like me who grew up in the old-style media and is immersed in the new media understands what has happened.  That’s why when I see a ridiculous headline I immediately put my Skeptical Hat on and look for the angle in the story (after I actually read the whole story!)   If children grow up scanning and not fully reading, vetting and comprehending, what will they actually learn?  Does it change HOW they learn?  That’s for people smarter than me to figure out, but I am smart enough to know we’re doing our kids a disservice if we don’t teach them how to navigate this crazy world we’ve created for them.

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Webtivity Opens Satellite Office in St. Petersburg Florida

Date posted: April 2, 2014

The last fourteen years have been exciting and rewarding for Webtivity, and the world has changed immensely around us over the years.  Our company started in a small location in central Bradenton in 1999 and was originally founded to provide computer education services for business owners.  Because word was spreading rapidly at the time that businesses needed to start worrying about building these things called “websites” our staff were asked if that was a service we could provide.  And so began the first evolution of Webtivity. 

Over time we added design and programming staff to meet market demands as businesses wanted to add more functionality to their websites.  As the web became more crowded and something called “Google” became important, we began educating business owners on the importance of Search Engine Optimization.  Then “social media” happened, and over time the major search engines started paying attention to social sites for ranking factors. In between this explosion of internet technology the world experienced the tech bubble, the first iPod, the eruption of smartphones, and the widespread adoption of video across the web. webtivity-marketing-design

As technology and the internet has evolved so has Webtivity.   But what we’ve never changed is our mission to provide excellent customer service, to never promise things we can’t deliver, and to always recommend solutions that are in our clients’ best interest.  Unfortunately for our industry as a whole there are few companies that operate that way, but fortunately for us it has been one of our great differentiators.   As our reputation has grown we have built a portfolio of customers around the greater Tampa Bay area, and over time we have continued to hear from our clients to the north that there are few good choices for internet marketing companies. 

That is why we are pleased to announce we have opened a satellite location in St. Petersburg, FL.  The new office space is located at 3021 Central Avenue St. Petersburg, FL 33713 in the Grand Central District, which received the Main Street community designation in 2001 by both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Florida Main Street program.   Our new office will allow us to better serve our clients in Pinellas County and we are excited we were able to secure office space in the growing District on Central Avenue near downtown St. Pete.

Webtivity has also made a brand transition to better reflect the services we’ve been offering our clients over the years.  Webtivity Design Solutions has been transitioned to Webtivity Marketing & Design.  Or you can simply call us what our friends have always called us: Webtivity.

So as we continue to grow and evolve, one thing that will always stay the same:  our mission will continue to be to provide excellent customer service, to never promise things we can’t deliver, and to always recommend solutions that are in our clients’ best interest.  Thank you to all our clients and strategic partners who have been with us all these years!

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Don’t Be Ugly

Date posted: March 27, 2014

Over the past several months I’ve been unhappy about the new Facebook review feature they added, and many of my sentiments were outlined in this article released by ZDNet yesterday.  After having my feelings validated, I decided to write an article about our own experience with Facebook reviews.facebook-reviews

What has amazed me over the past several months is that some of our competitors felt the need to go on our Facebook page and give us poor reviews to drive down our overall review score.  What’s funny is they didn’t check their settings to hide their identities when they posted their reviews.  That means other people can see they are going on their competitors’ Facebook pages and leaving bad reviews. 

I wonder how that makes them look in the eyes of their customers?

Because I have built many trust relationships over the years, some of the things our competitors have said about our company have gotten back to me.  Everything from “I heard they’re going out of business soon” to “they don’t use HTML5”.  These are tactics we never have used and never will use against our competitors.  Our staff have been trained that we never ‘bash the competition’.  Potential clients often ask the question, “tell me something bad about your competitors”.  Our staff are trained to reply with value statements about our company instead. 

Treat people the way you want to be treated.  Honesty is the best policy.  You get the same karma you give.

It’s my opinion that being ugly never pays off.  But I suppose in retrospect it is a high compliment to know our competitors are thinking about us and feel the need to attack us.  It must mean we’re doing something right.

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Wrong Information Is Bad For Your Business!

Date posted: March 26, 2014

That is the title of an email I received the other day, and boy did it burn me up!  Not because it’s untrue.  Just the opposite:  inconsistent information on the web about your business can seriously hurt your SEO.  What burned me up is the email came from a service that claims to help you keep your business information consistent online.  On the surface it sounds great — pay an annual subscription fee and an automated service helps you keep your business listings up to date.  The problem is these automated services only work with a handful of directories and don’t work with some of the major ones where your business should be listed.  Even more problematic is these services are not perfect; and some are far from it.

This particular service’s name is met with much contempt in our office.  We’ve had clients who previously tried the service and then had to hire us to clean up the mess it made.  It’s automatonan uphill battle dealing with the fallout and in some cases it took many months to clean up.  Sometimes the service erroneously created duplicate listings on directories because the existing listing did not have the exact business name, or perhaps had a different phone #.  A human could have found the old listing using a little elbow grease and deductive reasoning; something a mathematical algorithm is still not smart enough to do.  There are also times when wrong information was entered by the service and that information started getting ‘scraped’ by other websites and directories.

There are hundreds and thousands of places on the internet where you can post information about your business.  Most of those websites crawl the internet looking for information about companies and auto-populate themselves so the website seems full of information when people get there.  The problem is those websites don’t verify information they find, they just find stuff and post it there whether it’s accurate or not.  Then that information is found by another automated bot and gets populated somewhere else, and so on and so forth.  So if you aren’t constantly monitoring your online identity it’s easy to see how out of control your online identity can become. 

Automation technology has been amazing for manufacturing and other processes in our brief history on this planet.  So I suppose it’s become second nature for some to assume Automation = Good (unless your job was eliminated by it.)  The problem is that automation in our industry sometimes isn’t so good, and some things should still be done manually for accuracy.  Or you at least need to have humans in place to verify what the algorithms and robots are telling you.  These automated directory-building services don’t have humans double-checking the work.  And what’s worse, from our experience and from the multitude of complaints you can find online, they don’t seem to have the resources in place to correct errors that occur.  Unfortunately Google places a lot of weight on having consistent business listings across the internet (the same addresses, phone #’s, etc.) so when your identity starts to get screwed up it quickly pervades across the internet, Google takes notice, and your website gets dinged for it.  When a service can muck up something as simple as having multiple satellite offices in the same town you have to ask yourself how valuable the service really is.

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Making Ecommerce Decisions for Your Business

Date posted: March 6, 2014

You were told you needed to sell online.  It’s not a choice!  You must do it!  So on a shoestring budget you had something built and attached it to your website.  You don’t remember the last time you were there, and you’ve never seriously marketed it.  So can it ever be profitable for your business?  Well that depends…  (I love that answer!)

Most people think of ecommerce as selling a “widget” and shipping it out to their customers.  But it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  You can think of ecommerce as giving your customers the ability to pay their bills online, buying tickets for events, even purchasing Service Level Agreements for your company.  One of the biggest goals we hear from service companies is they want more people to purchase service agreements, yet they don’t provide customers with the convenience of purchasing them online.  Remember, the easier you make it for people to do business with your company, the more your customers will like you!shopping-bag-button

In our busy world after putting the kids to bed, spending time with our significant others and watching our favorite DVR’d show, we’re often sitting on the computer at midnight taking care of the bills or researching things we want or need to buy.  Our customers are doing the exact same thing!  So the first step to thinking about how ecommerce can benefit your business is to think about how ecommerce could benefit your customers.

Once you have that figured out then it’s time to determine who you can hire that you can trust.  Just like handling credit card information in your storefront or office has risk associated with it (dishonest employees, someone hacking into your network, someone breaking into your office and stealing improperly stored credit card information) so does the web.  If you hire someone who doesn’t have much experience or doesn’t pay much attention to online security, you’re opening your business up to unnecessary risk.  We routinely have companies approach us who had someone build a WordPress website for them with an ecommerce module which ultimately led to their website getting hacked.  (Read my previous post WordPress is not a shopping cart.)  Or there are a multitude of Content Management Systems out there that offer ecommerce “modules”.  But the unfortunate truth is that many of them have limited functionality and security vulnerabilities. 

That’s why we only recommend real shopping carts for our clients.  Besides the fact that they offer more functionality than plugins for Content Management Systems, they are generally more secure.  (Open Source shopping carts should be viewed with a skeptical eye because you can be at the mercy of the people developing your cart, and they may not be experienced enough to build a solid solution.)  At the end of the day, any software on the web is “vulnerable” so why risk your company’s future by not doing it right?  If your customer data gets compromised it could mean many thousands of dollars in fines from the credit card companies.  So make sure you think about solutions that can help your customers and give them a safe, secure and convenient online experience.  That will help your business grow!

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Leadership Manatee 2014

Date posted: February 27, 2014

This evening I am honored to graduate from the Leadership Manatee program sponsored by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.   The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had over the past 6 months have been incredible.  It’s easy to realize the community where we live, work and play is amazing.  But what you learn and experience over the course of the Leadership program is bound to educate even the most generational Bradentonians.  If I had to pay a dollar every time I said “wow I didn’t know that” I would be dirt poor right now.

I'm blinking Chris Sharek

I’m blinking Chris Sharek

The course spans six months, and every two weeks the class spends an entire day focused on specific themes important to our community.  This year’s sessions focused on the following topics:

  • Communications and Culture
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Land Use and Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Law Enforcement
  • Business and Industry
  • Local Government
  • Human Needs

Most days we visited as many as eight different businesses or organizations critical to the backbone of our community.  Companies in our backyards working on cures for Alzheimer’s, farms supplying produce to the largest food chains in the world, schools offering nationally renowned technical programs for their students, non-profits coordinating logistics to help our disadvantaged that would make the folks in brown trucks proud.  That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what we saw!

And let’s not forget the Simulated Society (SIMSOC) exercise we had to endure our first two days together.  I would go into more detail about what we did over those two days but we’ve all sworn a blood oath to never speak of the secrets enshrouded in the SIMSOC exercise….  

So through these six months I’ve learned the community where I call home is even more wonderful than I ever imagined, and there are some pretty great people I got to know who I may not otherwise have met.   (Even Chris Sharek of Atkins Global who accused me of sleeping in the picture I included in this post.  I was caught mid-blink darn-it!  Thanks for the photo Arthur….)

More importantly I also learned there are challenges we face as a community to insure we continue to evolve with the world around us to stay competitive.  The smallest contribution we make back to our community can make a bigger impact than you can imagine.   I’m a richer person for the experiences I’ve had and I’m deeply appreciative for having been given the opportunity to participate.

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Marketing Doesn’t Come From a Vending Machine

Date posted: February 13, 2014

Often I have potential clients call and the first questions they ask are what “packages” we offer and “how much it costs” for marketing.  This question always confuses me but I suppose they ask this question because they are accustomed to the way many companies in our industry operate.   Many companies offer “packages” with big shiny “Buy Now” buttons on their website.  Kind of like they’re selling Blowtorches to Snowmen.

But doesn’t this approach fly in the face of Marketing 101?  Isn’t every business unique?  Isn’t every industry unique?  Every market?  So how can you sell the same “marketing” package to every business of every shape, color and size without ever speaking with them?  The short answer is you can’t.  Well, you shouldn’t if you want to provide an effective vending-machineservice for your client.

No marketing company worth their meddle can tell you what marketing will work for your company without first learning about your company, your competitors, your products and services, your growth goals, other marketing and advertising strategies you’ve tried, etc.   We have clients in the same industry pursuing business in the same markets, but almost always we are using different tactics for  each of them.  For example we may be operating marketing campaigns for two Realtors in the same market, but one may prefer to focus on specific neighborhoods which may have different demographics than what the other Realtor targets.  Or they may focus on a specific niche market like First Time Home Buyers, retirees, gay couples, etc.  Our recommended strategies and tactics will be quite different depending on their focus.

So why do companies in our industry offer these pre-made packages and allow you to pull a lever on their website to purchase one?  Because they are hoping you don’t really understand marketing, and they want you to buy their product just like buying a pack of gum out of a vending machine.  The problem is they are marketing for your company just like any other production line.  They have created a square template and then they try to fit round-, triangular- and dodecahedron-shaped businesses into it.  It’s great for them because it cuts down on the amount of time they have to spend on their clients (i.e., profit) but it’s not so great for the many businesses that won’t benefit from their services.

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World’s Worst Passwords

Date posted: February 5, 2014

At the beginning of the year, Mashable released a list of the worst passwords in 2013.  The big news is that the password “password” has finally been dethroned. The usurper to # 1 Worst Password was “123456” which is arguably a somewhat lateral move.

Password security is a topic we’ve discussed before, but the following are some dos and don’ts regarding the password security:password

 DO:

  • Create unique passwords that use numbers, symbols (*&!$%), upper-and-lower-case letters
  • Make your password 8 – 10 characters long, the longer the better
  • Try using PasswordSafe (http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net) or other similar software to store your passwords on your computer.
  • Change your password every 3 months
  • Change your password after a security breach
  • Make your password easy to type (this makes it harder for someone looking over your shoulder to steal it!)

DON’T:

  • Use your birth date, social security number or phone number
  • Use the same password for multiple web sites | especially not your email password
  • Store your passwords on your computer
  • Choose your username as your password
  • Use all letters or all numbers
  • Use sample passwords

The following is the list of the 25 worst passwords of 2013. If yours is on here, you should probably change it. IMMEDIATELY.
 
1. 123456
2. password
3. 12345678
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. 123456789
7. 111111
8. 1234567
9. iloveyou
10. adobe123
11. 123123
12. admin
13. 1234567890
14. letmein
15. photoshop
16. 1234
17. monkey
18. shadow
19. sunshine
20. 12345
21. password1
22. princess
23. azerty
24. trustno1
25. 000000

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Making a Quick Buck Online

Date posted: January 22, 2014

The internet is a big place.  Over 650 million websites large.  That’s a LOT of competition!  When clients come to me for advice on how to position their website online, that’s part of the conversation I need to have with them.  No matter what you’re selling, there are many websites out there that have been marketing for a long time.  Because of the way Google works and because of all the noise out there, it’s probably going to take a while to catch up.  That doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up in disgust and walk away, it means you need to be reasonable with your expectations. 

If you want to sell widgets, let’s do a Google search for widgets.  You’ll see Google returns 231,000,000 results.  That means if you want to rank on the 1st page of Google for the word “widgets” you are trying to be the top 10 out of 231,000,000 results.   Now let’s look at who’s already ranking there:  Wikipedia, Apple, Google Play Store, WordPress, Webopedia, Twitter.

“Well”, you say, “I’m just a little company in Bradenton that offers plumbing services.”  Okay, well then let’s try the Google search Bradenton plumbing company.  Much less competitive, but still 463,000 results returned.  That doesn’t mean there are 463,000 plumbing companies in Bradenton, it means Google has identified 463,000 individual web pages that they think have to do with the topic of plumbing.  And if you’re a plumbing company, that means you’re trying to get your website placed in the top 10 out of those 463,000 other results.  Still pretty darned competitive, isn’t it?

That means to optimize your website you need to do all the things correctly that Google tells you to:

  • Have a solid website foundation
  • Have text on your website that contains the keywords you want to target
  • Update the text on your website frequently (blogging)
  • The longer your website has been out there, the better
  • Get trusted websites to link to your website
  • Get websites that are related to your industry to link to your website
  • Use popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus
  • Insuring major directories don’t have incorrect information about your company, or having duplicate listings

These are all the things that make up a healthy profile for your website that will help you build credibility on the search engines–and eventually rank well.  The truth of the matter is, doing all these things and doing them consistently takes a lot of time and energy.  The more competition you have, the harder you have to work on these factors.  And they have to be done consistently for as long as you have your website.   It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the hard truth.  It’s hard to sell the truth sometimes, especially when you have other companies in our industry promising the sun, moon and stars for pennies per month.  But if you think about the examples provided above, the competitiveness of the web, and all the effort involved in doing all the things Google says you need to do, you should come to the conclusion that the people selling “cheap SEO” are actually selling you a song.  And they’re singing off-key.

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Generic Top Level Domain Names (gTLDs) Explained

Date posted: January 16, 2014
We’ve had some questions recently about the new generic top-level domains (gTLD) that are hitting the marketplace.  It seems phone book companies are at it again, telling their customers “just buy this domain name and it will help you rank high on the search engines!”  If only it were that easy, Mr. and Ms. Phone Book Rep.
 
In years past exact match domain names (domains with your keywords in them such as www.florida-web-design-company.com) did get preference with the search engines.  Problem was, people were buying these kinds of domains and putting up crappy websites that weren’t useful.  Over the past several years, Google has taken steps to devalue “exact match domains” in their results.  Historically Google hasn’t given preference to one TLD over another either, and so far Google says they don’t have a reason to give preference to gTLD’s
 
But today’s blog post is regarding a discussion of the TLD itself:  .com, .net, .biz, .org, etc.  ICANN, in its infinite wisdom, is unleashing a ridiculous number of gTLD’s to the marketplace.  (See the entire list here.)  So if you’re a plumber and your domain name is HandyPlumber.com, you could potentially purchase HandyPlumber.plumber–or Handy.plumber.  Wow doesn’t that make life easy! 
 
Well now hold on a minute.  Didn’t they learn anything from the O.co debacle?  When the .co TLD was released, Overstock.com thought they would make it easy on their customers by changing their domain name to O.co.  So instead of having to type thirteen whole characters to get to their website, consumers only had to type four!   The masses obviously said, “Thank you Overstock.com!  We love you!!”  Right?  Nope.
 
Customers weren’t so grateful.  In fact, there was such a backlash from confused customers Overstock.com had to stop advertising O.co.  How people could be that confused about something so simple, I don’t understand… and the good people at Overstock.com who paid $350,000 for O.co sure didn’t anticipate it either.  (You can still get to their website by typing O.co into your web browser if you want to take advantage of the streamlined domain.)   So now that the market is going to be flooded with a f*ckton of TLD’s how do you think consumers will react?  Think there will be some confusion out there?
 
Many top brands sure are paying attention.  They’re concerned confusion will become rampant and they will lose control of their brands and internet presence.  Heavyweights such as Kraft Foods, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, WalMart, Siemens and many others have voiced concerns about it.  But ICANN, who likely stands to make money from this initiative (they deny this by stating that they are a not-for-profit organization), participating registrars, and the denizens of lawyers who will be fighting copyright battles are quite content with the move.   It sounds like a confused CF waiting to happen, but only time will tell.
 
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What To Do If Your Email Account Gets Hacked

Date posted: January 9, 2014

I’m sure it’s happened to many of you.  Your friend calls and says, “Hey did you mean to send me that strange email?” 

“What strange email?” you inquire.

“The one with the link to a weird website,” your friend replies.

It’s at about that time you get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you realize your email was hacked.  So what should you do if your email gets hacked?  Here are just a few of the things you need to do:

1) Evaluate how much damage could be done
If this was a trash email account that you barely use and don’t have any sensitive information sent to, then the impact could be nominal.  UNLESS you use the same password on other accounts!   If that is the case (Tisk Tisk!), then assume all those other accounts have been compromised as well and start changing passwords.   If you fear sensitive accounts could have been compromised (such as your online banking account) you should immediately contact those institutions and think about putting some credit monitoring in place.

2) Run your anti-virus
This has become trickier as we continue to increase the number of devices we have in our lives.  We have a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone… and don’t forget the computers at work where you’ve accessed your email.   If you don’t have anti-virus on every single one of your devices now is the time to get them protected.  It’s possible one of your devices was compromised by malware, and if you change your email password the bad guys will have your new password.  If you’re using a “free” anti-virus program it probably isn’t protecting you as much as you need.  Anti-virus is a very small investment to protect some of the most important aspects of your life.  If you’re not comfortable with your ability to install anti-virus or run a thorough scan, take your computer to a computer store and have them give you a hand.

3) Change your password
As mentioned above, if you have malware on your computer and don’t remove it before changing your password the hackers could obtain the new password.  Once you are sure all potentially infected devices are free of malware and are properly protected, change your password to something secure and isn’t used anywhere else.  (If you want more advice on creating strong passwords and using password managers refer to a previous blog post.)

4) Check your email settings
Sometimes hackers will setup automatic forwards in your account, or will add a signature to your email.  Comb through your email settings and make sure everything is set the way you left it. 

5) Tell your friends
Your friends will be unwilling beneficiaries of your hacked account because they will start receiving emails that contain links to websites they don’t want to visit.  If they click the links it’s possible they will be taken to a website that contains malware and they may get a case of the nasties on their computer as well.

At this point all you can do is monitor your online accounts and your credit and keep your fingers crossed that the issue has been taken care of.   Now is also the time to be more diligent about your online practices.   If you’re the type of person who responds to spam emails that are sent to you about winning the lotto in some foreign country, click links in emails and/or open attachments from people you don’t know, and send your social security and credit card information to people in email, then be ready to continue to have problems co-existing with the web. 

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4 Tips for Using Pinterest for Your Online Store

Date posted: December 11, 2013

Pinterest has been stepping up their game, and based on eCommerce research consumers can be influenced by “pins” they find on the popular social media website.  Research shows Pinterest can drive as much traffic to an online store as some of the “old guard” such as Twitter.  Even better, some studies have shown up to 10% higher conversion rates from traffic coming from Pinterest in comparison to traffic from other social media websites!   It’s no wonder online stores have been taking notice what this social media website has been doing since their launch in March, 2010.

With over 70 million users and 2.5 billion pageviews, here are some things you should know about leveraging your Pinterest business account for your online store:

Pin It Buttons
If your products don’t have Pin It buttons on them, they should!  This allows your website visitors to save an image on Pinterest, which can give you exposure to their friends.  Any time you give people an easy way of sharing your message with their audience, it is a win-win!

Now-Trending Tool

This feature is only about a month old, and is a way for stores to show their most-pinned items.  This has been rolled out to a few limited partners (e..g, Zappos) but Pinterest plans on adding more features and rolling it out to the general public once they work out the kinks.  Stay Tuned!

Rich Pins
Released at the beginning of the summer, Rich Pins provide your shopping cart a way to feed information to your Pinterest account and “tag” your product posts with relevant information such as price and availability–and most importantly where people can buy it!  You will probably require assistance from a web development company to prepare your website, but the approval process by Pinterest is fairly seamless once your website is ready.  A recent study showed pins with prices generated 36% more Likes than those without.

Pinterest Analytics
You need a way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, right?  Back in the Spring of this year Pinterest released Web Analytics to help their users track things like how many people have pinned from your website, the number of views each pin has, etc.  Of course you should always compare this data with your own analytics data from your website, but this was a welcome addition for online marketers.  These metrics can help you test new images you put on your website, the popularity of certain products, and of course with eCommerce tracking in place on your website, which images are bringing you the most sales.

Taking advantage of Pinterest means you must have fabulous photos on your website that inspire people and make them want to share.  Remember the majority of Pinterest users are women, so if your product lines are geared toward men perhaps Pinterest isn’t the right avenue for you.   Top product categories that tend to do well on Pinterest are: Food and Drink, DIY and Crafts, Home Decor, Hair and Beauty, Women’s Fashion, Weddings, Kids, and Holidays/Events.   Pin away!
 
 

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2 Million Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter Passwords Hacked

Date posted: December 5, 2013

According to Trustwave, hackers installed keylogging software on approximately 2 million computers and have been capturing login information for over a month.  Trustwave was able to track down at least one of the servers storing the login credentials in the Netherlands, but other servers still exist that have not been located yet.  On the Netherlands server they found passwords for:

  • 70,000 Gmail accounts
  • 60,000 Yahoo accounts
  • 318,000 Facebook accounts
  • 22,000 Twitter accounts
  • 8,000 LinkedIn accounts

ADP accounts were also compromised which means the hackers had access to sensitive information payroll personnel use to issue paychecks.  Also included in the compromised information found on the Netherlands server was 41,000 FTP credentials and 6,000 RDP logins.

While security experts don’t yet know how the virus got onto infected computers, they recommend insuring your anti-virus software is up to date, as well as the latest version of your web browser and popular plugins for browsers such as Java and Adobe Flash.  Once that is completed you should then update your passwords and make sure they are secure.  That means capital letters, small letters, numbers and symbols should be in your password, and ideally your password should at least be between 12-16 characters in total.  (Can’t remember your passwords for different accounts?  Use a password keeper!)

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Happy Thanksgiving From Webtivity!

Date posted: November 28, 2013

We are so thankful for all our amazing clients and strategic partners–without you we couldn’t do what we love every day!  Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your friends and families, watch some football, do some shopping, or just relax!  Whatever makes you happiest, that is what we wish for you over the holiday weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!
The Webtivity Team

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Deceptive Foistware Really Grinds My Gears

Date posted: November 27, 2013

Since everyone is up in arms because Brian got “killed off” Family Guy (come on people, Stewie has a time machine!) I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you what really grinds my gears.  Sure, I know it’s the eve before Thanksgiving and I’m supposed to be spending the whole month of November posting on Facebook what I’m thankful for, but this is important! 

People inadvertently download crapware to their computers all the time without knowing any better.  Websites deceptively place ads around the real download, and software vendors automatically bundle other software with their download unless you read the fine print and uncheck a small box before you start downloading. 

Sure, I understand if someone is letting me download their software for “free” it’s a way for them to make money.  But how about giving us an option to download something that is valuable, won’t take over control of my web browser, and/or conflict with other software already on my computer?  Huh?  How about that??  And don’t be fooled, it’s not just the little guys trying to make a buck.  The big boys are notorious for this practice too.  Kudos to ZDNet for calling out Skype, Adobe and Oracle for these practices.

Here are some examples of how you are tricked to install things like the Ask Toolbar, Babylon Toolbar and other malware:

CNET is a place that comes up well in searches if you’re looking for a popular piece of software to download.  Unfortunately they strategically place ads that are more prominent and have language surrounding the ads that is designed to confuse less savvy users.  Which of the highlighted areas should I click on to begin my download?

When updating Adobe Flash you are taken to this screen during the installation process, which if you are in a hurry and ignore, will cause you to inadvertently install McAfee.  Doesn’t Adobe already make enough money from us?

Here is an example of how you can be prompted to install the Ask Toolbar.  You should never, ever install the Ask Toolbar!  You need a PhD to get it off your computer once it’s taken over.

And finally, I saved the WORST for last: the Babylon Toolbar.  If you have this on your computer, have your IT person clean it off immediately!   Unfortunately if you do a search for “how to remove the Babylon toolbar” it’s possible you will go to a site that will prompt you to download software to remove it, and you will inadvertently download something even worse.  So if you don’t know what you’re doing, have someone help you who does.

Often when I’m with a client at their office I see their Internet Security application or other critical application popup and say “Update Now”.  Almost always they close the window without running the update.  I ask them why they don’t update and the response I most often get is, “I’m afraid to update things because I end up downloading something that breaks my computer.”  Foistware is directly responsible for that sentiment.  If people are afraid to update their computers because they have been trained to think they are going to accidentally break their computers, then we have a bunch of computers that are open to security vulnerabilities. 

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Google Privacy

Date posted: November 20, 2013

Did you receive the email pictured below from Google regarding privacy?  These emails from Google have always struck me with a slight feeling I’ve been transported into an alternate universe.  Google, for better or worse, knows more about us than anyone else.  They know which street addresses we’ve looked up (and visited if you have an Android phone), the content of emails we’ve received, the topics we’ve searched for, the websites we’ve visited (including banking, retirement, and other sensitive websites), the IP addresses we’ve been connected to, which ex-boyfriends/girlfriends we’ve looked up, which videos we’ve watched, which photos we’ve uploaded, which news stories we’ve shared… the list goes on forever.  This is done in the name of providing us with the most personalized experience possible, to deliver us a product that is tailored to our distinct tastes, wants and needs. 

But by checking that checkbox in Google’s Terms of Service, you give Google permission to collect your every online move.  And they store that information online.  Which means if hackers ever break into the Great Google Garage storing your personal information, that information could be leaked for the world to see.   According to Edward Snowden, the NSA learned how to tap into that information.  If his story can be corroborated it means it was possible for other hackers around the world to do the same.  These revelations have caused Google and now Yahoo to encrypt internal traffic.

It’s all very sobering when you take a moment out of your busy day to think about all this.  Can we trust that these big data giants are doing everything possible to protect our personal information?  That they are staying ahead of the technology curve and staying two steps ahead of the hacking community (and foreign governments)?  That they weren’t complicit in sharing data willy-nilly (unconstitutionally) to our government?  Are the measures they are now taking just paying lip service with a wink and a nod to the US government?  Unfortunately we don’t know.

Will all this cause me to delete my Google account?  Not yet.  Mostly because I’m so darned dependent on the products and services Google offers.  It’s not like I can move somewhere else, because all of them capture and store my data.  My only option would be to go back to the days when I organized my life with a Day Planner and used street maps to find my way around.  Truthfully I just don’t see that as an option given the massive amounts of information I have to consume each day, the emails I have to respond to, the tight schedules I keep.

So I’m thrust into the reality of making a decision:  do I go old-school and kill my productivity in the name of privacy, or do I roll the dice that my information will be safe and use the technology at my fingertips which so eloquently structures my life?

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
– Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google

 

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2013 Chamber Expo

Date posted: November 13, 2013

Ready for the biggest networking event of the year??  Come see us at our booth at the 2013 Chamber Expo TONIGHT at the Bradenton Convention Center!  There will be hundreds of Chamber members and guests, and there is always amazing food and door prizes.  And of course the opportunity to meet people from the best businesses in the area!

We will have a fun game to play at our booth, so come see us tonight!

Chamber Expo 2013
TONIGHT!

Location: Manatee Convention Center  (map it)
Date: 11/13/2013
Time: 5:00 PM TO 8:00 PM

For more info on the Chamber Expo:
Manatee Chamber – Kim Dalglish
941-748-4842 x121

 

 

 

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How to Opt Out of Google Displaying Your Information in Ads

Date posted: October 17, 2013

Privacy. It’s a topic that Google seems to be deeply concerned with recently.  As of September, 2013, Google announced it would be encrypting all keyword searches – in the name of protecting your privacy.  But at about this time, Google also announced that it would also be using your name, face, reviews, and social networking activity in ads to your friends or anyone else Google thinks might be influenced by your opinion. 

Hmm, touché Google.
Regardless of if you see the hypocrisy of these two changes, you may not be thrilled to have your face showing up in ads. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to opt out. And here’s how:

  1. While you’re signed in to your Google account, click on this link. Or if you prefer, copy and paste this into your address bar: https://plus.google.com/settings/endorsements.
  2. At the bottom of the page, uncheck the “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads” box.
  3. Click Save.
  4. A pop-up box will open, asking if you’re sure because your friends won’t benefit from this setting. Click “Continue”.
  5. You should get a notification that says, “settings saved” and you’re good to go!

Google-Profile-Opt-Out-of-Ads-Showing-Your-Info

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Are Niche Marketing Companies Effective?

Date posted: October 16, 2013

This past week I had a discussion with a prominent company in Tampa.  They had their website developed by an agency that works exclusively with companies in their industry.  Their frustration was that they couldn’t seem to get their website to rank well on the search engines even though they were working with a company that specialized in their “niche”.  I have this conversation often with companies that decided to work with a niche company and aren’t getting results.

The reason is because many niche companies in our industry build a (rhetorical) box and then put every single one of their customers inside that box.  Why?  Because it’s more profitable for them.  Build one solution and then re-sell it to as many companies as you can.  Otherwise they would have to do what real marketers do:  uncover what makes each of their clients unique and then leverage that information through blogging, social media and traditional SEO tactics to get qualified traffic to their websites.  That’s hard work!

After I found out our potential client had their website built by a niche company I began my investigation the way I always do when I know that is the case.  I began by looking up their website IP address, and then seeing how many other websites share that IP address.  Thousands. 

Next I looked at the text on their website to determine if it was written uniquely for them.  Nope.  It was the exact same text that can be found on hundreds of other websites with only the company name and city changed.  So for example, their website may contain the following sentence:  “Acme Widget Company knows our customers in the Tampa area and provides top-notch services in the widget-making industry.”  Another company website would have, “Delphi Widget Company knows our customers in the Clearwater area and provides top-notch services in the widget-making industry.”  (In extreme cases I’ve even seen misspellings get spread across many websites.)

That means the one thing that Google considers most valuable–uniqueness–has been severely diminished from the very start.  Now I have the difficult job of trying to explain even though they spent thousands of dollars they were sold a terrible solution and if they truly want their campaign to work they may have to essentially start over.

As internet marketing has popularized we have seen niche marketing companies crop up in almost every industry you can think of:  legal, real estate, insurance, restaurants, even churches and hair salons.  On the surface hiring a company that “specializes” in your industry sounds like a good idea.  However you need to be aware that many of these companies use shortcuts to make their jobs easier so they can sell high volume with minimal work involved.  Their clients buy the idea of working with a niche company that should be able to understand and help them.  Unfortunately what they think they’re buying and what they receive is often two different things. 

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Trip Down Memory Lane

Date posted: October 10, 2013

I was taking a poll the other day and one of the questions asked:
“Do you enjoy the trip more, or the destination?”

The question struck a chord with me, probably because of introspection I’ve started doing over the past few years as I (gasp) get older.  I find myself more often thinking about decisions I’ve made in my life, where I’ve come from, where I’m going…   “Trip, definitely”, I thought.  I’m the type of person who never quite feels like he’s arrived at a destination, because that implies there is nothing more to do.  And how boring would that be??

Back in 2006, ready to move out of the healthcare industry, I started looking for a job in the technology sector.  I had only lived in Florida a few years after having spent about 2 years trying to find a way here.  I was faced with potential decisions of moving to NYC to work for Yahoo, moving to Miami to work for Alienware.  Or take a job with a small internet marketing company in Bradenton that I felt had great potential and I could help grow.  Being a “trip” kind of guy I chose the latter and haven’t looked back.

This week marks the 4th year with our fearless leader and CEO Terry Thompson at the helm of the company.  With him he brought James Moore, one of the most diversely talented people I’ve met in the field.  The value the pair have brought to Webtivity aren’t quite quantifiable.  The scope and quality of services we can offer our clients is tremendous compared to when I first started working here.  But even though we’ve grown over the years I refuse to think we have ‘arrived’ anywhere, because I am a ‘trip’ kind of guy and I will never feel content that I’ve reached a particular destination.  So for now, I’ll take some time to reminisce about where we started–in a little house in central Bradenton–and where the next few years will take take us.  Ad multos annos!

 

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Your Sales Process Can Stop a Sale Dead in its Tracks

Date posted: September 26, 2013

The other morning one of our staff decided to kick off the beginning of football season by spiking her laptop computer on the ground.  (Not really, but the end result was just about the same.)

I was tasked with ordering a new LCD to repair the damage caused by her infraction. A quick search on Google to find a replacement screen provided with me a few sites, including some YouTube videos on how to replace the screen on the exact laptop. Knowing that I would be taking on the repair myself, I took the time to watch one of the videos to see what I had to look forward to. A video by a company called Screen Surgeons was well done, and they also had a site which sold replacement LCD screens.

After spending another 10 minutes price shopping, I decided that while Screen Surgeons was not the cheapest seller out there, I would reward them since they put the effort into producing the video that I would ultimately be using during the repair.

I had been authorized to order it with Next Day Shipping so we could have this machine up and running ASAP, but I wasn’t going to spend the $50 on Next Day if the item wasn’t in stock. 

I called and they weren’t in the office yet because they were 2 timezones behind me.  I got their voice mail explaining to leave a message with an email address and they would email me back. Choosing not to attempt to recite my email address letter by letter to an answering machine,  I decided I would just email them instead. 

I emailed them just asking if the item was in stock, and this is where the momentum of my purchase came to a halt.

My email to them:

Hello,
Can you please tell me if the Toshiba Satellite S855 Laptop LCD Screen SKU:156LED-TOS855 is in stock, I would like to order it with next day shipping, but would be pointless to pay for the next day if it’s not in stock. Thank you,
James Moore
Internet Marketing Director
Webtivity

The response I received stopped all momentum of the buying process.

Thank you for your damaged screen inquiry.
We have looked up your laptop model and determined the right screen. Our screens come with YouTube instructional videos, email tech support for most laptops and a 2 year warranty.
TO ORDER, PLEASE GO TO: http://screensurgeons.mybigcommerce.com/toshiba-satellite-s855-laptop-lcd-screen/
Please reply to this email if you have any questions. We look forward to serving you.
~Daniel
Customer Service Professional
www.screensurgeons.com

This didn’t answer my question at all!  I was in disbelief, and a little pissy.

I’m sitting with a browser tab open with the item in my cart, order information filled out and just waiting to click “Submit Order” and I get this generic probably automated message that didn’t answer my question, or address my concerns about ordering from them.

I needed to have this item arrive the following day so I would have it before the weekend. I couldn’t wait any longer for a response;  I ended up ordering from someone on eBay who showed the item was in stock and shipped same day. 

The point of this story is: there many many steps involved in the buying decision process.  Helping move a person along that process as seamlessly as possible will build the momentum needed to result in a conversion. If at any time you stop that momentum you will lose everything you worked at building.

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Tracy Law

Date posted: September 18, 2013

Aaron Tracy approached Webtivity to have a new website developed to help promote his new law practice.  The goal for this project was to develop a website that offered a welcoming image and not rely on the usual stodgy photos and designs you see on many attorney firm websites.  The website promotes Aaron’s knowledge in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, For-Profit and Non-Profit Counsel as well as Business Law.  The website was designed to be responsive for mobile devices so the website will degrade gracefully to a smartphone.

Aaron J. Tracy, Esq., LL.M., Graduated from the University of South Florida in 1996 with a B.A. in accounting. After working for several years within the accounting field Aaron attended law school at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing Michigan, graduating cum laude with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) in 2003. After law school, Aaron obtained a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from the Georgetown University Law Center, in Washington, D.C. Aaron has been practicing law in the Sarasota and Bradenton area since 2004.

For more information on Tracy Law please visit:
www.tracy-law.com

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Install Multiple PHP Versions on Plesk 11.5 CentOS 6.4 x64

Date posted: September 16, 2013

An automated Plesk  update upgraded PHP to 5.4.x breaking older sites hosted on the server. Our Admins noticed that Plesk Linux 11.5 finally supported multiple versions of PHP, much like the Plesk Windows version. After upgrading to Plesk 11.5 we discovered that the installation instructions to install multiple versions of PHP were slightly incomplete.

After banging our heads against the wall we finally found someone who posted: Compiling multiple PHP versions for Plesk 11.5 ( CentOS 6.4 x64 ) that was able to resolve the problem, but unfortunately there we still a few things missing.

Here are the steps we took to get PHP 5.2.17 & PHP 5.3.27 installed on CentOS 6.4 x64.

Update the system and packages

[code language=”bash”]yum -y update && yum -y install wget screen && reboot[/code]

Store the timezone, we’ll need to add this to the php.ini later.

[code language=”bash”]timezone=$(grep -oP ‘(?<=")\w+/\w+’ /etc/sysconfig/clock)[/code]

Add the EPEL repository for mcrypt.

[code language=”bash”]rpm -ivh http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/6/x86_64/epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm[/code]

Update/Install all the packages PHP will need.

[code language=”bash”]yum -y install gcc make gcc-c++ cpp kernel-headers.x86_64 libxml2-devel openssl-devel bzip2-devel libjpeg-devel libpng-devel freetype-devel openldap-devel postgresql-devel aspell-devel net-snmp-devel libxslt-devel libc-client-devel libicu-devel gmp-devel curl-devel libmcrypt-devel unixODBC-devel pcre-devel sqlite-devel db4-devel enchant-devel libXpm-devel mysql-devel readline-devel libedit-devel recode-devel libtidy-devel[/code]

The one thing that was unique to our environments was mcrypt had to be downgraded in order for libmcrypt-devel to be installed.
Run this if you get a libmcrypt version errors:

[code language=”bash”]yum downgrade libmcrypt[/code]

Download PHP 5.2.17

[code language=”bash”]wget http://museum.php.net/php5/php-5.2.17.tar.gz -O /usr/local/src/php-5.2.17.tar.gz[/code]

Extract PHP 5.2.17, and change to the new directory.

[code language=”bash”]tar xzvf /usr/local/src/php-5.2.17.tar.gz -C /usr/local/src/[/code]

[code language=”bash”]cd /usr/local/src/php-5.2.17/[/code]

Configure PHP
If you receive any configure errors you’ll need to diagnose specifically for your system, but most common error is because you’re missing required packages.

[code language=”bash”]./configure –with-libdir=lib64 –cache-file=./config.cache –prefix=/usr/local/php-5.2.17 –with-config-file-path=/usr/local/php-5.2.17/etc –disable-debug –with-pic –disable-rpath –with-bz2 –with-curl –with-freetype-dir=/usr/local/php-5.2.17 –with-png-dir=/usr/local/php-5.2.17 –enable-gd-native-ttf –without-gdbm –with-gettext –with-gmp –with-iconv –with-jpeg-dir=/usr/local/php-5.2.17 –with-openssl –with-pspell –with-pcre-regex –with-zlib –enable-exif –enable-ftp –enable-sockets –enable-sysvsem –enable-sysvshm –enable-sysvmsg –enable-wddx –with-kerberos –with-unixODBC=/usr –enable-shmop –enable-calendar –with-libxml-dir=/usr/local/php-5.2.17 –enable-pcntl –with-imap –with-imap-ssl –enable-mbstring –enable-mbregex –with-gd –enable-bcmath –with-xmlrpc –with-ldap –with-ldap-sasl –with-mysql=/usr –with-mysqli –with-snmp –enable-soap –with-xsl –enable-xmlreader –enable-xmlwriter –enable-pdo –with-pdo-mysql –with-pdo-pgsql –with-pear=/usr/local/php-5.2.17/pear –with-mcrypt –without-pdo-sqlite –with-config-file-scan-dir=/usr/local/php-5.2.17/php.d –enable-fastcgi[/code]

Make && Make Install

[code language=”bash”]make -j $(grep processor /proc/cpuinfo | wc -l)[/code]

[code language=”bash”][ ! -d "/usr/local/php-5.2.17/" ] && make install[/code]

Copy the php.ini to the new location.

[code language=”bash”]cp /usr/local/src/php-5.2.17/php.ini-recommended /usr/local/php-5.2.17/etc/php.ini[/code]

Include the timezone in the php.ini

[code language=”bash”]sed -i "s#;date.timezone =#date.timezone = $timezone#" /usr/local/php-5.2.17/etc/php.ini[/code]

Finally use the following command to add the new PHP install to the Plesk Panel, PHP version selection.

[code language=”bash”]/usr/local/psa/bin/php_handler –add -displayname "5.2.17" -path /usr/local/php-5.2.17/bin/php-cgi -phpini /usr/local/php-5.2.17/etc/php.ini -type fastcgi -id "fastcgi-5.2.17"[/code]

Download PHP 5.3.27

[code language=”bash”]wget http://be2.php.net/get/php-5.3.27.tar.gz/from/this/mirror -O /usr/local/src/php-5.3.27.tar.gz[/code]

Extract and change to the directory

[code language=”bash”]tar xzvf /usr/local/src/php-5.3.27.tar.gz -C /usr/local/src/[/code]

[code language=”bash”]cd /usr/local/src/php-5.3.27/[/code]

Configure PHP 5.3.27

[code language=”bash”]./configure –with-libdir=lib64 –cache-file=./config.cache –prefix=/usr/local/php-5.3.27 –with-config-file-path=/usr/local/php-5.3.27/etc –disable-debug –with-pic –disable-rpath –with-bz2 –with-curl –with-freetype-dir=/usr/local/php-5.3.27 –with-png-dir=/usr/local/php-5.3.27 –enable-gd-native-ttf –without-gdbm –with-gettext –with-gmp –with-iconv –with-jpeg-dir=/usr/local/php-5.3.27 –with-openssl –with-pspell –with-pcre-regex –with-zlib –enable-exif –enable-ftp –enable-sockets –enable-sysvsem –enable-sysvshm –enable-sysvmsg –enable-wddx –with-kerberos –with-unixODBC=/usr –enable-shmop –enable-calendar –with-libxml-dir=/usr/local/php-5.3.27 –enable-pcntl –with-imap –with-imap-ssl –enable-mbstring –enable-mbregex –with-gd –enable-bcmath –with-xmlrpc –with-ldap –with-ldap-sasl –with-mysql=/usr –with-mysqli –with-snmp –enable-soap –with-xsl –enable-xmlreader –enable-xmlwriter –enable-pdo –with-pdo-mysql –with-pdo-pgsql –with-pear=/usr/local/php-5.3.27/pear –with-mcrypt –without-pdo-sqlite –with-config-file-scan-dir=/usr/local/php-5.3.27/php.d –without-sqlite3 –enable-intl[/code]

Make and Make Install

[code language=”bash”]make -j $(grep processor /proc/cpuinfo | wc -l)[/code]

[code language=”bash”][ ! -d "/usr/local/php-5.3.27/" ] && make install[/code]

Copy php.ini to install directory

[code language=”bash”]cp -a /etc/php.ini /usr/local/php-5.3.27/etc/php.ini[/code]

Set the timezone in the php.ini file.

[code language=”bash”]sed -i "s#;date.timezone =#date.timezone = $timezone#" /usr/local/php-5.3.27/etc/php.ini[/code]

Finally use the following command to add the new PHP install to the Plesk Panel, PHP version selection.

[code language=”bash”]/usr/local/psa/bin/php_handler –add -displayname "5.3.27" -path /usr/local/php-5.3.27/bin/php-cgi -phpini /usr/local/php-5.3.27/etc/php.ini -type fastcgi -id "fastcgi-5.3.27"[/code]

 

Hopefully that helps some of you out there who are having trouble getting PHP installed on Plesk 11.5
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Webtivity Launches New Ecommerce Website for V&L Crafts

Date posted: September 11, 2013

V&L Crafts supplies individual shark’s teeth and shark’s teeth jewelry to gift shops, aquariums and museums all over the world.   Over 20 years ago they started as a home-based business, collecting shark teeth from the beaches of the Florida Suncoast to make into necklaces and earrings, which were then sold to local shops and restaurants. As demand grew, they discovered diving for teeth was more productive than simply walking the beach. When demand again outpaced their own collecting methods they increased yield by developing an industry in Morocco, where fossil shark teeth are by-products of the local phosphate industry.

As they grew and began cultivating customers all over the world, V&L Crafts needed a better way to connect with their customers. Their previous website did not allow visitors to purchase directly from the website, and products were displayed in PDF’s for download which is not great for search engines or user experience.  The goal of this project was to develop a shopping cart solution that would allow retail and wholesale purchases from the website, with a primary focus on the wholesale audience.  Wholesalers can be assigned to specific categories based on their buying level, which will allow the shopping cart to automatically calculate discounts based on their level.

Users “check out” their order on the website and an invoice produced and emailed. The UPS Real-Time Shipping module was installed to calculate shipping.  A “Wish List” module was also installed so customers can store their favorite items to make re-ordering more convenient.

V&L Crafts is an international business with over 4,000 square-feet of warehouse/office space in Nokomis, FL.  In addition to shark tooth jewelry they sell a variety of fossilized shark tooth gifts, from educational sets and key chains to loose individual or bagged shark tooth fossils.  With the launch of their new website they can now serve their customers in a more efficient and professional manner, no matter which timezone their customer resides.

Note: All teeth are fossils; no sharks are harmed to create their products.

For more information on V&L Crafts please visit their website:
www.vlcrafts.com

 

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Fawley Bryant

Date posted: September 5, 2013

Fawley Bryant architect firm approached Webtivity to investigate having a website developed that would provide the foundation necessary to show the talent that is indicative of the Fawley Bryant name.  Fawley Bryant also wanted the capability to update the website internally, so the DotNetNuke platform was recommended for the project.

Created with the user experience firmly in mind, the website has been redesigned using the latest technology so the site is compatible with today’s browsers.  The site includes extensive project information and stunning photography to provide a more detailed overview through a search of Service Categories or by the Market Sectors of Commercial, Community, Education, Government, Hospitality, Medical, Residential, and Sports and Recreation.

Fawley Bryant provides a comprehensive strategy to architecture and project development. The strategy, called THINK, provides Strategic Consulting Project Development, Planning, Architecture, Interior Design and Sustainability services. THINK maximizes the potential of any real estate asset. Fawley Bryant serves clients along the southwest coast of Florida, from offices in Sarasota and Bradenton.

For more information on Fawley Bryant please visit their website:
www.fawley-bryant.com

 

 

 

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Webtivity Launches New Website for Silver Resorts

Date posted: August 28, 2013

When Silver Resorts first approached Webtivity back in 2006 they had a non-existent search engine presence and a website that did not reflect the beautiful accommodations they have to offer.  After developing a website which incorporated attractive photos of the island and the Silver Resorts experience, Webtivity launched a Search Engine Optimization campaign to help attract international travelers to the website.  When the new website was first launched they were averaging around 50 unique visitors to their website each day.  With all the efforts we’ve invested in their online marketing over the years they now routinely average over 350 unique visitors to their website each and every day.

Because technology and web standards have progressed significantly since their first redesign, Silver Resorts again approached Webtivity to redesign and redevelop their website to take advantage of the latest and greatest available.  Silver Resorts again invested in having incredible photography taken so the Webtivity Team could exemplify the island lifestyle throughout.  Website visitors have the ability to book online and connect to Silver Resorts through social media, sign up for their newsletter, or join the Island Time Vacation Club to earn reward points for repeating vacationers.  The website was also designed to be responsive for mobile devices so smartphone users who arrive at the website have an enjoyable experience.

For more information please visit:
www.silverresorts.com

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Do You Believe Everything You Get in Your Inbox?

Date posted:

Every day I receive spam in my inbox that some spambot sent about how they can help me build a better website at a cheaper price, get me on the 1st page of Google, help me with my AdWords, build a better email template, shopping cart, social media strategy, blah blah blah blah blah….  I promptly curse at the practice of spamming, delete the emails and then go about my day. 

The only problem is my clients get these emails every day too, and apparently they aren’t aware these emails are spam, scams, phishing attempts, and other malicious malcontents.  So quite often I have clients forwarding these spam emails to me saying, “Hey this company says my website rankings stink and they can help!  What’s the deal??”  So now I have to take time out of my busy day to try to explain the difference between legitimate email (people who you already know, or companies with which you have an established relationship) and spam.  So in reality, spam is a double productivity killer for me…  GRRR!!

Since it’s apparently difficult for the regular email consumer to know the difference between legitimate email and spam I’ve decided to offer the following advice:

1)  According to the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 it is illegal for companies to email you unless you’ve explicitly authorized them to email you, or you’ve done business with them and they are emailing you as a result of the ongoing relationship you have with their company.  So, do you want to do business with someone who is violating federal law?

2)  If someone is sending you an email out of the blue soliciting their services and you’ve never heard of them before, DELETE IT.

3)  If someone is sending you an email from a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Live or other ‘free’ email account soliciting their services, DELETE IT.  (This isn’t foolproof, but they are more likely to be a legitimate company if they have a real website address. I don’t send email to my clients using my Gmail account, I send email using my @webtivitydesigns.com email account.)

4)  When it comes to people sending you spam about how they “just looked at your website and noticed you don’t rank well on the search engines”, DELETE IT.  They didn’t look at your website, they unleashed a spambot across the internet hoping it would get into enough people’s inboxes and that a few people would actually respond.  In fact, even Google gets these same emails!  Here is an excerpt from the Google Webmaster Tools website:

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en

I can’t say it any better, Google… I can’t say it any better.

 

URGENT UPDATE:

While I was preparing this Blog post I received the following spam through my Facebook page:

Robert Martin              4:08pm

Estate Investment Project proposal:
Dear, I came across your page in this social network website during my official browsing hours, and decided to contact you right away. Well I have the honor to introduce myself as Robert Martin, a citizen of Jordan, but currently residing in the United Kingdom where I run an estate development firm. However, I contacted you with the view to build a mutual investment partnership with regard to the desire to invest in estate development over there in your country, if you are willing to partner with me in this estate investment project in view, be assured that the project will be to our great advantage, because real estate investment has being lucrative and rewarding worldwide, feel free to send an e-mail for more briefing and other necessary information. However, if this partnership proposal is against your moral ethics, accepts my apologies . In the same vain, if you are interested, do write back to me with this email, Robertmartin41@yahoo.com as I will be glad to receive your response. Yours, ROBERT MARTIN

 

Need I say any more????!!!!

 

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Microsoft Tag Calls It Quits

Date posted: August 21, 2013

Not that it makes me the prognosticator of prognosticators, but I called it:

                                                                               

Important Notice to our Microsoft Tag Customers   

To our valued Microsoft Tag Customer,
This August 19, 2013 notice is to inform you that the Microsoft Tag service will terminate in two years, on August 19, 2015.  We are providing this two year termination notice in accordance with our Terms of Use for the Microsoft Tag Service located at this link: http://tag.microsoft.com/tag-terms-of-use.aspx See Section 2 – Availability of Service; Changes to the Agreement & Service, paragraph 2.1.

Through August 19, 2015, you will be able to continue to log into your existing Microsoft Tag service account, use existing Microsoft Tag codes, generate new Microsoft Tags, and run reports as usual.

To help you prepare for the termination of the Microsoft Tag service on August 19, 2015, Scanbuy has been selected to support Microsoft Tag technology on the ScanLife platform beginning no later than September 18th, 2013, and to offer transition and migration services to Microsoft TAG customers who choose to migrate to the ScanLife platform.  This transition path will help you to continue running your campaigns using Microsoft Tags on the ScanLife platform.  

Scanbuy is the largest provider of QR codes and runs ScanLife, a cloud-based mobile engagement platform for creating personalized, uniquely tailored experiences for consumers to digitally engage with brands in their everyday surroundings through smartphones.

If you wish to learn more about the ScanLife platform you may contact Adam Gold, VP of Sales at adam.gold@scanbuy.com or call 212-278-0178 x 400.

We thank you for allowing us to serve you as our Microsoft Tag customer.  If you have questions that Microsoft can assist you with please contact taginfo@microsoft.com.

Respectfully,
Eric Engstrom,                     
General Manager, Microsoft

                                                                               

Given Microsoft’s product launch track records (now where did I put my Zune?) it didn’t take a genius to know that Microsoft Tag probably wouldn’t be around for long. Unfortunately when you’re up against an open source solution (QR codes) that has a higher adoption rate you’re starting an uphill climb.  QR codes haven’t reached consumer mainstream conscience in the U.S. just yet, but part of that is the fault of marketers and business owners who slap QR codes on things and don’t provide any value to those who take the time to scan them.  Taking someone to the Home page of your non-mobile-friendly website after they just scanned your QR isn’t going to earn you any brownie points, and it’s going to train consumers to ignore QR’s.

How long do you think before Microsoft gives Windows 8 the axe?  It couldn’t be a moment too soon….

 

 

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Anna Maria Chamber Small Business Development Expo

Date posted: August 14, 2013

The 2nd annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Small Business Development Expo is just around the corner!  Webtivity will be participating as a sponsor and exhibitor, and Troy Newport will be offering a series of three workshops as part of the keynote speaker sessions.  The series offered by Webtivity will uncover the many options consumers have when developing a website and the pros and cons of each.  The series will also address the many ways businesses can promote themselves online and the effectiveness of different channels.

Tickets to attend the expo are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

WHEN:
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE:
CrossPointe Fellowship Hall
8605 Gulf Drive
Holmes Beach
map it

For more information about the Expo please call:
AMI Chamber of Commerce
www.amichamber.org
Debbie Wing
941-778-1541

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is SMShing?

Date posted: July 31, 2013

The term SMShing is a term used to describe phishing text messages (SMS phishing).  While it’s not necessarily a new problem, the newly coined term is.  These phishing text messages are sent to a cell phone in an attempt to get the cell phone owner to give up sensitive information.   Customers of local banking institutions such as Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union have been targets of this type of scam.

The scammers will typically blanket a market (it’s not hard to find out the area code and first 3 digits of cell phone #”s in a region) with text messages telling recipients their account at XYZ Bank has been compromised and their account has been placed on hold.  The message will instruct recipients they need to call a phone # to reactivate their account. 

 Sample message: 
XYZ Bank alert. Debit card locked. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX to unlock it.

If you are a member of that banking institution it can be a jarring message to receive.  However, if you call the phone # provided in the text message you will be connected with the scammers and they will ask you to confirm your account # and all the rest of the information they need to gain entrance into your bank account.   Then you’re left with a drained bank account.

To protect yourself against these types of scams follow these rules of thumb:

1)  Never reply to “urgent” communications by email, phone call, SMS or other method.  Even though it’s an alarming communication you’re receiving, ask for the name of the person calling you and a phone number to reach them back.  If they aren’t willing to provide this information the red flags should be raising.

2)  After receiving an urgent communication of this nature, call the Customer Service phone # on the back of your bank card, credit card, etc.  If it was a legitimate communication they will be able to help you.

 3)  Save the email, SMS or phone # that was used to reach you, this information may be helpful in catching the scammers!

The best advice you can follow is to never trust communications of this nature you receive out of the blue.  The more urgent they make it seem for you to give them information, the more skeptical you should be.  Your financial institution’s website will have more information on how to report attempted fraud.

 

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Are You Trustworthy?

Date posted: July 24, 2013

Our brain is constantly bombarded by sights and sounds.  In order to make sense of the noisy world around us our brain  automatically makes snap judgements–judgements we may not even be aware of.  This sub-conscious psychology is exactly what we marketers try to tap into.  To illustrate my point, let’s imagine you’re driving to a destination far away and suddenly your Low Fuel indicator dings on your dashboard. 

You’re in luck!  The next exit sign says there are 2 gas stations for you to choose from.  You safely exit and when you get to the end of the exit ramp you look to your left and you see this gas pump:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmm…  Now you look to your right and you see this gas pump:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which gas station would you pull into?  The more modern-looking gas station right?  Why?  Your brain in a fraction of a second told you that the old pump didn’t have a credit card swiper on the pump (less convenient) and looked old and rusty (less trustworthy). 

Your brain works the same way when you’re surfing the web.  Now imagine you’re on the market for a new flatscreen TV.  You start surfing and you come across this website where you see a TV at a really good price:

 You decide to shop a little more and you come across the same TV for an even CHEAPER price.  But look at the website…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decision Time:  Do you buy the TV from the better-looking website because it looks more trustworthy?  Or do you buy the cheaper one from the not-so-good-looking website because it is cheaper there?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say most often you’re going to make a purchasing decision based on trust.

People who visit your website make the same snap decisions when they arrive at your website.  Research shows you have approximately 6-8 seconds when someone arrives at your website to either convince them to delve further into your website or hit the Back button and continue on to your competitors’ websites.  That means you need to put a ton of effort and thought into your brand image and messaging.  If you don’t potential customers are going to make snap decisions that lead them to your competitors.

 

 

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How to Stop Receiving Solicitations

Date posted: July 17, 2013

Recently my grandfather passed away so my grandmother has been under more frequent supervision.  One of the first things our family noticed was the inordinate amount of unsolicited sales calls she gets.  So we quickly signed her up on the National Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) since it only takes about 31 days to go into effect.

The next thing we noticed was the amount of junk mail she was receiving in the mailbox.  It was so copious it made it difficult to sort the real mail from the solicitations.  If you’re like me, when you go to the mailbox you often feel like you’re just taking out the trash.  You get those flashy “0% APR Introductory Rates” and pre-approved this-and-that. 

Unfortunately a large source of identity theft comes from the solicitations you receive in the mail from credit card and insurance companies. Often crooks intercept those pieces of mail and use them against you.  If you’ve ever had your identity stolen or know someone who has, it can be devastating. 

After some research I found some of the best services I’ve found in a long, long time.  Here’s how I helped my family take more control over our marketing preferences:

Step 1:  Go to www.optoutprescreen.com

Step 2:  Choose to either Opt-Out for 5 Years or Opt-Out “Permanently” (it is reversible if you hit your head someday and decide you want to receive these solicitations again)

Step 3:   If you choose the 5-Year option you complete an electronic form and you are finished!  Or if you choose the Permanent option you must complete an electronic form and then print a PDF, sign it and send it directly to them for confirmation.  To be clear, this removes only your name from companies that use Consumer Credit Reporting Companies to compile their prospect lists.  It does not remove you from those who use the Direct Mail Association (DMA) list.

Step 4:  If you want to also remove yourself from the DMA list, register an account at www.dmachoice.org.  You can selectively choose which catalog, magazine, credit and other offers you receive.  Or opt out from all of it!  Your registration is good for 5 years.

If you’re like me and feel like mail solicitations are bad for the environment and want to help protect your identity, use these quick tips to take control!  Then go online and start shopping  😉

 

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Price Arbitrage Vs Transparency

Date posted: July 11, 2013

Price arbitrage was again brought to the forefront when Facebook recently changed their policies to prevent the practice within their advertising network.  This practice involves ad agencies buying large chunks of web advertising inventory, and then reselling it to their clients at a premium price.  That allows the ad agency to make profit from managing their clients’ ad campaigns, and also profit off the margin.  This practice is much more common among large media companies and is legal (even though if you tried the same practice on Wall Street you’d be in federal prison.)   Recently large corporations have started asking questions about how their ad budget is being spent and have been pulling out of agencies who can’t (or won’t) be transparent about the issue.  Read more about this on AdWeek.

You may be saying to yourself, “well I’m a small company and I’m not working with those large agencies so I don’t have to worry about it.”  Unfortunately this practice happens on a different level with smaller agencies.  For example, often agencies will create a Google AdWords account for their clients and never give them access to it.  They charge a flat fee to their client which includes the ad budget and the fee the company charges to manage the campaign.  Unfortunately at the end of the day the client doesn’t really know how much of their monthly costs are going toward ad budget and how much the agency is pocketing.  Unscrupulous agencies have been known to mislead their clients on exactly where their money is going. 

To prevent this from happening to you, make sure if an agency is managing an ad campaign for you that the campaign is created in your account and your credit card is being charged directly by Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, or whichever ad networks are being used.   Not only does this allow you to fully account for your ad budget, it also provides portability if you ever decide to leave that agency and work with another.  For example if an agency is managing your Google AdWords campaign and you decide to take it elsewhere, if you do can’t take your account and ad campaign to the new company they have to setup the campaign from scratch.  That means you lose all your account history and Quality Scores.  In the long run that means you are going to pay more money.

At the end of the day make sure you have control over your web properties, your accounts, and demand transparency when it comes to your ad budget and how your money is being spent.

 

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The Elusive Number 1 Ranking

Date posted: July 3, 2013

Back in the infancy of SEO all you had to do was stuff a bunch of keywords in your Meta tags, hide some white text on a white background, set up 10 of the same website on different domains and you were off to the races!  There was no Facebook back then.  No iPad.  No smartphone. 

My how times have changed. 

Now if you want to rank well on Google you have to keep your website up to date, blog, use social media effectively, and get relevant websites to link to you.  So if you’ve been doing everything that Google loves and you’ve been monitoring your rankings, you’ve probably been Googling different phrases to see where you come up in the search results.  If you’ve been paying attention you may have noticed there are some differences in your rankings depending on how you searched.  Here are scenarios when Google will give you different results even though you are searching for the exact same phrase:

Your Location
Google will take your location into account.  If you’re on your home computer Google will determine your location based on your computer’s IP address.  So if you do a search for “Sarasota widget company” while you’re sitting in your condo in Sarasota you may get a different set of results than if you did that same search in Seattle.

Personalization
If you are logged into your Google account while doing searches, Google will take your past browsing history into account when serving your results.  If Google knows you have visited certain websites more often when doing a particular search they will show you those options more often thinking that is what you’re looking for. 

Your Device
Here’s where things can get really crazy.  If you do the same search from a desktop computer, a tablet and a smartphone, Google will likely serve you different results.  You can even get different results if you have GPS enabled versus disabled on a mobile device.

So at the end of the day how do you know if you’re REALLY number one?  The answer is you probably don’t.  And while Google says this is because they want to provide the most relevant results to their users, I have to think that at the end of the day they also enjoy the fact that it makes an already moving target even more difficult to hit. 

Happy 4th of July!!!

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Google Strikes Again

Date posted: June 27, 2013

It’s too early to tell exactly what Google has done, but early indications show a major shift in how Google ranks websites was launched this week.  Depending on which side of the fence you’re on you may be happy or very sad about this latest change.  The change seems to be related to one of the major complaints in our industry over the years: people with “exact match” and “partial match” domains (web addresses that contain the primary keywords a company is trying to target) have had an unfair advantage in Google results.

For example, let’s assume your company is named Triple Diamond and you’re a widget manufacturing company located in Sarasota Florida.  Since Sarasota is your primary market you want your website to be ranked for the phrase “Sarasota widgets”.  Instead of having your website located at TripleDiamond.com (the name of your company), you put your website at SarasotaWidgets.com (the exact phrase you want to target.)   In the good old days, even with a terrible, horrible, abhorrent website you would have a huge advantage over much higher quality websites for the exact match search of “Sarasota widgets”.  This phenomenon led to awesome domain names like Sarasota-widgets.com, Sarasota-widget-company.com, etc. 

The trouble with our Triple Diamond example above is that the company is ignoring the importance of building their brand by using TripleDiamond.com and instead focuses on parlor tricks to get their website to rank artificially high.  Google has been tackling this issue slowly but surely over the past year or so.  Now companies like Triple Diamond are falling like rocks in the rankings because they bought a domain years ago and never did a lick of SEO thinking they had beat the Google monster.  Well guess what, fake company I made up called Triple Diamond?  All those years you’ve rested on your laurels and didn’t spend any energy on SEO is now valuable time you wasted.  Get ready to open your wallet, because building trust on the search engines is much more difficult today than it was back when you bought that domain.  Hopefully you were at least smart enough to buy TripleDiamond.com back then!

 

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Converting a Personal Facebook Page to a Business Page

Date posted: June 19, 2013

Back in the old days we were able to help our clients convert a personal Facebook page into a Business page, but Facebook has stepped up security measures.  Now if we try to make this type of change, Facebook doesn’t recognize our IP address and blocks account access.  This makes it a little difficult running social media campaigns for our clients.  Yay for security, boo for accessibility.

At any rate, if you accidentally started a personal Facebook page for your company and want to switch it to a Business page so you are in line with Facebook’s Terms (and get the benefits associated with having a Facebook Business page) follow the steps below:

Before starting please reference the information on Facebook regarding converting a Personal page to a Business page: https://www.facebook.com/help/175644189234902/   Note there is some information that will not transfer.

Step 1:  Log into your Facebook account where the Personal page is you want to convert.  Click on the “gear” on the top right.  Then click “Help”.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Begin typing the word “convert” into the search field and suggestions will begin populating. Click on “How do I convert my personal account to a Facebook page?”

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Down at the bottom, click on “start converting”.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Select “Local Business or Place”

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Choose “Professional Services”, complete business information, check that you agree to Facebook Terms and click the Get Started button

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6: Enter your password to complete the process.

 

 

 

 

 

That completes the process!  Now go on your new Facebook Business page and complete your business information as much as possible, make sure your Profile and Cover photos look great and match your company’s brand. You’ll also notice you now have access to analytics which tell you how people interact with your page.  Happy marketing!

More help:  Need to merge Facebook Business pages

 

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How to Merge Facebook Business Pages

Date posted:

If your company has more than one Facebook Business page, don’t worry!  You can merge them together, and the process is actually pretty painless.  If you want to merge these rogue Facebook Business pages together to control your social media presence, follow these steps.

Before starting please reference the information on Facebook regarding merging Business pages: https://www.facebook.com/help/249601088403018/

Step 1:  Log into your Facebook account where you manage one of your Business pages.  Click on the Edit option.

 

Step 2:  Select the page you want to keep at the top.  Then select the other page(s) you want to merge with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Step 3:
You will receive a confirmation message.  Now it’s a waiting game for Facebook to review your request and hopefully approve it!  This process may take a week.

 

 

 

 

That completes the process!  Now go on your Facebook Business page and make sure all of your information is correct and you’re happy with the result.  Happy marketing!

More help:  Need to convert a Facebook Personal page to a Facebook Business page?

 

 

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Last Touch Attribution

Date posted: June 5, 2013

Much to the chagrin of online retailers, customers typically do not make a purchase the first time they are on your website.  (That would be too easy, right??)  More importantly, customers who buy from your online store typically do not arrive on your website from the same traffic source every time.  To emphasize this point, think about your own online buying behavior.  If you’re thinking of making a purchase you may start out doing a few Google searches to see what’s out there.  Then you may talk to a few friends to see what they know about the product.  They you may do some more refined Google searches based on what you’ve learned so far.  At this point you may find a few websites that sell the product and look reputable.  Maybe you sign up for their email alerts to see if you can get a discount code or special deal.  You receive a few promotional emails over the next few days or weeks and click through to the website a time or two but still don’t purchase.  Perhaps you ‘Like’ their Facebook page to see if they are posting about any special promotions.  Then maybe you talk to your friends some more.  Then you do some research on the frontrunner companies to make sure they are reputable companies before you give them your credit card information.  You do a few more Google  searches to comparison shop.  During one of those searches you see a Google Ad that catches your eye and you click on that ad.  At this point you are in the buying mood and you decide to follow through with the purchase.

So in that sequence of events, which part of that process was the most important for the retailer?  Unfortunately many retailers don’t know all this activity happened because they don’t have the right tools deployed on their website.  If you use ecommerce tracking on your website you would know the purchase path described above contained organic search, email clickthroughs, social media clickthroughs, (those are called “assisted conversions”) and finally a PayPerClick ad closed the deal (this is the “last touch” attribute.)  Some retailers have started to focus on the last touch attribute, assuming that is the most important part of their strategy because it was the one that closed the sale.  Some have started to prematurely cut budgets on other funnels because they aren’t showing up as the last touch attribute often enough. 

But I would argue the truth is that every part of that decision-making chain is equally important, and if you removed one of those links in the buying chain it is highly likely the purchase may not have taken place.  If one of your competitors touched that customer with their social media or email message during the decision making process it’s probable you would have lost that sale.  So while it’s important to understand how each of your traffic funnels are performing and always try to optimize each funnel, it is short-sighted to assume because a funnel isn’t sealing the deal as often as others that it is less important in the process.

 

 

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Google Penguin 2.0

Date posted: May 30, 2013

The search engine universe has once again been turned on its head by another major update by the engineers at Google.  Penguin 2.0 was a major update rolled out by Google last week that is aimed at improving search results (i.e., getting rid of the people who are playing games and trying to fool the search engines.)  At first glance the usual suspects have been affected: porn sites, game-related sites, and other generally crappy sites.  Also, websites that have not been putting forth SEO efforts were significantly affected.  Some surprising ranking drops came from big brands like Dish, Salvation Army and REEDS Jewelers. 

Some further analysis shows certain industries got hit particularly hard by this update.  According to research in our industry, the top 5 industries whose rankings were negatively affected by Penguin 2.0:

        1. Retailer websites
        2. Real Estate websites
        3. Dining/Nightlife websites
        4. Internet and Telecom websites
        5. Law websites

So far our internal analysis of our clients’ websites shows that while there were some fluctuations in rankings over the past week, overall our clients have either maintained their ranking trends or have moved upward slightly.  This tells us that we are advising our clients in the right direction and helping them achieve what Google wants to see.   In other words, we are helping our clients do exactly what Google tells you to do:

  • Have a solid website foundation
  • Blog and/or change the content on your website frequently
  • Participate in social media
  • Control your online footprint
  • Do things that are noteworthy so other people want to talk about you online

There’s no super-secret handshake that will keep you ranked high, no special relationship that your SEO has with an ex-Google employee to get insider information, no one is smart enough to have “cracked” the Google algorithm.  Success boils down to consistent hard work, and a knowledgeable team who can help you execute your online marketing.  If you play a cat and mouse game with Google eventually you will find yourself without a tail.

 

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Manatee Association of Realtors Tech Tune Up

Date posted: May 16, 2013

Webtivity will be showcasing our products and services as a vendor at the 2013 Manatee Association of Realtors Tech Tune Up.   We will be offering a number of special offers to Realtors who stop by our booth at the event, including website design, Search Engine Optimization and social media services. 

The annual conference and technology showcase is designed to help Realtors stay on top of the latest advances in technology and how to leverage technology for success.  There will be guest speakers presenting on a variety of topics at all levels of techie-ness.

If you’re a Realtor and you want to have a successful online presence, come out to the Tech Tune Up and see us!

WHEN:
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
9:00am – 3:00pm

LOCATION:
Polo Grill Ballroom
10670 Boardwalk Loop
Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202
(map it)

For more information on the Tech Tune Up event, please contact:
Manatee Association of REALTORS, Inc.
10920 Technology Terrace
Bradenton, Florida 34211
(941) 747-1818
www.manateerealtors.org

 

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Website Launched for Phone Solutions Inc

Date posted: May 9, 2013

Popularity of VoIP Phones for Business Continues to Rise

VoIP phones have become a staple of the modern business.  Phone Solutions Inc. has been in the industry for over 10 years and has been at the forefront of the ever-evolving industry.  Phone Solutions is an ESI business phone system certified reseller and also offers Fusion VoIP and PBX systems for companies that want to take advantage of internet-powered phone systems.

Phone Solutions manages over six thousand ESI business phones for the School District of Manatee County, and has installed and programmed sixty five ESI 600 Communication Servers for the district.  Not only do they have enterprise products and capabilities, but they also have products and services for small to medium sized businesses.

In the near future Phone Solutions plans on expanding their website in order to offer ecommerce capabilities.  This will allow local customers to conveniently purchase products directly from the website.  It will also allow Phone Solutions to reach customers outside of their physical area.

For more information on Phone Solutions Inc. please visit their website:
www.phonesolutionsinc.com

 

 

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Spark Growth’s Coding for Non-Profit Bradenton Riverwalk Website

Date posted: May 3, 2013

I had the opportunity May 2nd to volunteer in collaboration with area event planners, project managers, software developers and Realize Bradenton to kick off the development of the new Bradenton Riverwalk website. The new website will illustrate and explain features of the complex, provide a calendar of events, and allow the community to schedule their own events using the many amenities Riverwalk has to offer. The website is also in development using the feature rich, flexible and secure content management platform DotNetNuke (DNN).

Since Webtivity has long valued all that DNN has to offer, I was excited to provide acclimation for the other developers in the group and to answer questions throughout the day. I also had a great time planning the visual impression of the site including layout, graphics and styling. There is still much to be done but it was a great day of collaboration with great minds from the Bradenton-Sarasota area, and I can’t wait until the launch of this incredible tool for the Bradenton community!

Bradenton Riverwalk in Downtown Bradenton Florida

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eCommerce Website Launched for Vapin Lizards

Date posted: May 1, 2013

When Barbara, Cheryl and Sandy approached Webtivity, their story was the same as many others who come to us for help.  They had hired a company who promised to develop an attractive, functional ecommerce website they could proudly market to build their business, but after months of frustration and no functional site, gave up and sought help elsewhere. This happened to them twice until finding Webtivity.  Since their SunShop Shopping Cart was already in place, we picked up the project where the previous companies left off and first focused on the design.  After refining their company logo, work started on the new template design.  Direction was given to start working on product photos and descriptions while the rest of the project was underway.  Ideas and strategies were exchanged through development to begin the long process of positioning the product, getting the website found once launched, and beginning a long-term marketing campaign.

Fortunately the partners at Vapin Lizards had a well thought out Business Plan in the first place, which makes marketing their products a little easier.  For example, their eLiquids use no fillers or additives, are USA tested, and USA made and bottled.  Only the highest quality food-grade flavors from companies like LorAnn Oils® and Capella Flavor Drops® are used.  Vapin Lizards also has unique DIY kits where customers can create unique and flavorful eliquids to their own tastes without having to dilute concentrated nicotine solutions.  This means the possibilities are safe, endless and tailored to everyone’s taste buds!

Corporations have already approached Vapin Lizards to supply their employees with vaping products to reduce smoking and promote a healthier workplace.  Keep an eye on this lounge of lizards, you’re about to see a lot more of them!

To learn more about Vapin Lizards visit their website:
www.vapinlizards.com

 

 

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@AP Twitter Account Hacked

Date posted: April 25, 2013

How Phishing and Malware Affects Us

On Tuesday the world experienced the amount of havoc a hacked account can cause.  A pro-Assad Syrian group took credit for hacking the Associated Press Twitter account and sending a Tweet that there was an explosion at the White House.  Within minutes the Dow plunged about 145 points, erasing almost $200B from the stock market.  How did it happen?  The AP’s employees broke a cardinal rule that led to the hack: They clicked on a link in an email and tried to log into an account.  It seems the hackers sent a phishing email that looked like it was from Twitter prompting the recipients to log into the account to resolve an issue.  At least one recipient clicked the link in the email, was taken to a website that was made to look like Twitter and tried to login.  Of course as soon as they did that the hackers captured the user name and password to the account.  They promptly logged in and posted the fake Tweet. 

Lesson learned:  Never, ever, ever click on a link in an email in order to go to a website and login!  If you get an email that says “click here to login”, simply open your web browser, go to that website directly, and THEN login. 

But even with that safe practice in mind, if you have spyware on your computer hackers can still get login information to your accounts.  That’s why it is crucial to have trusted virus and malware protection on your computer.  I can’t tell you how often I hear people say they don’t have any anti-virus software on their computer.  And the reason I most often hear:  “It costs money.”  Really?  Paying  between $45 – $75 a year for virus and malware protection (which usually can be installed on more than one computer) is too much to protect your identity, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit card accounts, and all of your other personal information?  Did you also know if your computer is infected with malware it can be used to proliferate spam across the internet?  With all that in mind, that’s too much money to pay?  Sorry if I look at you like you have a 3rd arm growing out of the side of your head. 

And if you’re a business owner who allows your employees to bring their own devices to the office and connect them to your network:  think about all the potential risk you’re exposing your company to each and every day.

If any of this makes sense to you, go find trustworthy virus and malware protection for your computer posthaste.  Finally, don’t forget if you use “free” anti-virus , you will definitely get what you pay for.

 

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5 Tips for a Successful eCommerce Website

Date posted: April 18, 2013

There is a tremendous amount of research done each year on ecommerce.  No surprise, considering we spent over $225 billion last year buying things online here in the U.S.  I could spend a week putting together a list of things to pay attention to for your ecommerce website, but unfortunately I have other matters to attend to.  So instead I will focus on some of the most important considerations to keep in mind.

1. Be realistic
If you intend to have a successful ecommerce website, you will need to make a proper investment in it.  Time and again I speak with people who think they can make a paltry investment and earn millions in no time flat.  I once had a conversation with someone who said he was sure he would make $100,000 in his first year of having his website online.  And he was only willing to spend $1000 to have his website developed.  Really?  He expected to have a 9900% ROI on his investment in the first year?  Wow, sign me up!

2. Market your website
One of the biggest mistakes I see is people launching an ecommerce website and then not marketing it (SEO, PPC, Social Media, etc.)  Sorry, but just launching a website and expecting people to serendipitously find it is a pipe dream.  It’s like opening a business on Main Street and not putting a sign out front.  There are somewhere around 650,000,000 websites on the internet so you are only a flea on the buttocks of the internet.  If you don’t actively and relentlessly market it you are going to fail.

3. Stick-to-itiveness is key
Building a loyal following is something that takes time and effort.  Then more effort and more time.  You are going to have to spend countless hours blogging, working social media, finding other websites and blogs who may be interested in telling their audiences about you, participating in forum discussions, and much more.  It’s a thankless job, and rarely will you see an immediate payoff.  But it is crucial to stick to it and continue to evangelize about your products.

4. Give people a reason to return
Hopefully you have a product that people need to buy more than once (and not because it breaks easily!)  Finds ways to incentivize customers to return and purchase from you in the future.  Or just as well to tell their friends about you.  It’s always easier to get current customers to buy from you than to constantly have to find new ones.

5. Be accessible for your customers
Simple things like having a  customer service phone # can significantly increase conversions on your website.  The idea of sleeping on the beach while your website is churning out orders is the stuff of whimsy. Customers are going to have questions and problems and complaints.  You need to be there to help or you’re going to get a bad reputation online, which is a killer.  Besides that, your customers are going to have something critical to your success:  feedback.  They will tell you what they like and dislike about your products, and what they would like to see from you in the future.  If you want to be around for the long haul, taking this type of feedback into consideration is going to be crucial.

 

 

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CardioVascular Solutions Institute Launches New Website

Date posted: April 11, 2013

Dr. Gino J. Sedillo, M.D. has led an interesting and storied life.  He wasn’t born a cardiologist after all.  In fact, his first job in a hospital was buffing floors.  Within two years he moved up to orderly, emptying bedpans and making beds.  He met a cardiologist at that hospital who became his inspiration, and he began his quest to become a doctor too.  Having trained at the Texas Heart Institute and completing residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Dr. Sedillo moved to Bradenton Florida in 1995.  Soon he was performing over 1000 procedures a year, and attracting national attention in his field.  Soon he was teaching procedures to cardiologists and surgeons all over the country.  In 2011 he founded the CardioVascular Solutions Institute, with offices in Sarasota and Bradenton. 

Dr. Sedillo built beautiful offices just as impressive as his background and career but his website did not adequately convey his skill and expertise.  His team hired Webtivity to develop a website that is just as warm and inviting as his offices, and as comforting as his smile.  Being a new practice, he also needed to be found.  So in conjunction with his new website he partnered with Webtivity on an SEO campaign to help him begin gaining the online exposure he needs to grow his practice.

To learn more about the CardioVascular Solutions Institute please visit their website:
www.cardiovascularsolutionsinstitute.com

 

 

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Scope Bacon – Hit or Backfire?

Date posted: April 3, 2013

One of the earliest pieces of advice I was given by a Human Resources Director when I first entered the workforce (more years ago than I care to admit to) was to be careful with humor.  “Leave it to the professionals”, I was told.  “You’ll end up making the wrong joke at the wrong time and it will land you in hot water.”  I can say with full certitude that I have ignored the hell out of that advice over the years.  It’s just not my personality.  For the most part, with a little common sense, I have avoided the ominous outcomes the HR Director warned me about.  (I readily admit I have made a lot of bad jokes over the years though.)

Humor is not only risky in the workplace, but it can also be a risk to your brand.  Not everyone has the same sense of humor.  (Heck some people don’t have a sense of humor at all!)  Social media can make something you say take off like wildfire, so you have to be especially calculated if you’re going to pull a prank on your loyal customers.  When April Fools Day rolls around, it’s always interesting to see if major brands play it safe or bold.  For the most part there don’t seem to be any kerfuffles this year so we may conclude everyone played it safe?

One of the interesting (albeit minor) backlashes we’ve seen involves Scope.  They announced they are launching a new bacon-flavored mouthwash as a prank on their followers.  Interestingly when some people realized it was a joke they actually expressed disappointment that it wasn’t a real product!  Who knows what the future holds for bacon-flavored Scope.  Perhaps what started as a simple April Fools joke with turn into an international sensation that will cause Scope stocks to soar!  Then again, maybe not.

 Scope Bacon YouTube Commercial

 

 

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Webtivity Expands Talent

Date posted: March 28, 2013

Webtivity has expanded our talent with our two most recent hires.  These hires support our continued focus on helping our clients grow through smart internet marketing strategies.

Marketing Consultant
Trisha Gaffney has been hired as a Marketing Consultant at Webtivity.  Trisha previously worked as a Digital Media Consultant with a global multimedia corporation.  In 2011 she won multiple company awards and was recognized for being one of the top Digital Media Consultants corporation-wide. 

Trisha has vast experience in helping businesses grow by leveraging search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, text marketing, direct mail and mobile marketing.   Trisha is Google AdWords Certified and received her Yahoo Strategic Ambassador designation.  She is also a member of the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

Trisha’s role with Webtivity will include analyzing clients’ current marketing strategies, recommending new strategies, and developing marketing budgets that support a positive Return On Investment.  Her background will greatly support the Design and Internet Marketing staff by contributing to marketing planning and execution.

 Trisha was raised in St. Louis, MO and her parents worked in television and radio.  When asked about why she chose a career in marketing she said, “I grew up with a passion for media and marketing.  It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Marketing/Design Assistant
Webtivity has also added Patricia Sennhauser as Marketing/Design Assistant to support our growth.  This hire supports the company’s growth

and assists with the continued expansion of online and traditional marketing services offered by Webtivity.  Patricia’s role with Webtivity will include supporting the Design and Internet Marketing staff by contributing valuable input and support and assisting with client communications.

Patricia earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business with a directed focus in the areas of both Marketing and Management from the University of South Florida. Supplementing her formal education in International Business, Patricia has also had extensive training and experience in foreign language, most notably in Spanish and Portuguese.

She has further studied Latin American culture and business through hands-on experience, having traveled to Brazil and Paraguay and through her acceptance to a study abroad internship in Argentina. These experiences have given her valuable insight into diverse markets and important cultural considerations in marketing. Furthermore, her academic career was uniquely enriched by her involvement as a member of the Bulls Business Network, Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, and also as a graduate of the Honors College at USF.

 
Welcome to the team Trisha and Patricia!

 

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Ring Authority is Here!

Date posted: March 14, 2013

Your Phone Service..  Your Way

Believe it or not we are at the point where businesses no longer have to be dependent on the phone company to provide phone service.  Using the internet to deliver phone service (Voice Over Internet Protocol or VoIP) has been around for a number of years.  Increasingly businesses are seeing the benefit of using this technology to decrease costs and reduce overhead.  Ring Authority is a leading provider bringing this technology to small, medium and large businesses all over the country.

They offer the following product lines:

One of the most amazing of these emerging technologies are mobile “softphones”.  This basically means you have what looks like a traditional desktop phone on your desk on which you can place your smartphone while you’re in the office.  When you leave the office, pick up your smartphone, and take all the features of your desk phone with you!  This is very popular with office staff who travel often.

For more information on Ring Authority please visit their website:
www.ringauthority.com

 

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Responsive Design vs Mobile Websites vs Mobile Apps

Date posted: March 7, 2013

My goodness technology moves fast!  Only 2 years ago I was blogging about the difference between mobile websites and mobile apps.  Today responsive design is adding a whole new consideration for your website project.   Many aren’t sure of the differences between these mobile approaches to marketing.  Before you can choose the type of mobile experience you want to build, you need to consider your audience.  If they are viewing your website on a mobile phone, do they want the same experience and information you offer on your main website?  Chances are they are accessing your mobile website for a completely different reason than they would your main website.

For example, your website may contain a lot of content  the average visitor wouldn’t want to try to consume on a mobile device.  In that case you may want to consider having a small mobile website that provides the most pertinent information about your business, the easiest ways to reach you, and then provide a link to your main website.  Or your typical visitor may want to be able to interact with your company and save account information on their mobile device.  In that case you may want to think about a mobile app.

Once you have assessed how mobile visitors will want to interact with you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Responsive Design
This is a newer approach to web design where your website will sort of “morph” to fit the devices accessing it.  In other words, your main website (and all its content) will be optimized for viewing on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.  Depending on the nature of your website it can be tricky to make it responsive and may add a lot of additional development time.  This option may not be viable for websites using some ecommerce or content management frameworks.  But when responsive design is indicated and it’s pulled off correctly, it can be a great asset to your users.

An example of responsive design: www.bostonglobe.com
(view on your desktop, tablet and mobile phone to see how the website re-sizes itself)


Mobile Website
This approach works well when your audience needs an abbreviated version of your website, and is most likely accessing it on-the-go.  When your website detects someone is accessing it with a mobile phone, it automatically serves the visitor with a separate mobile website.  The website is usually found on a sub-domain (e.g., m.webaddress.com), in a folder of the main website (e.g., webaddress.com/mobile) or on a separate URL (e.g., webaddress.mobi).  You typically want to give visitors the option to view your main website if they choose.

An example of a mobile website: http://m.cnn.com


Mobile App

A mobile app is developed for mobile phone platforms like iPhone and Android, and must be downloaded onto the phone from an app store.  Mobile apps have capabilities that mobile websites don’t, so there can be advantages to using a mobile app if you need to interact with your visitors in a unique way that can’t be accomplished easily (or at all) with a mobile site.  Because there are many different mobile phones with various operating systems, mobile apps can be very expensive to develop and maintain.  Every time a new operating system is released (which happens often–this is technology we’re talking about here!) you will need to update your app.  An ongoing budget will also be required for bug fixing.

An example of an app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cnn.mobile.android.phone

 

So remember:  consider your audience and how they are interacting with you; consider the technologies you need; and then choose the right strategy for your mobile properties.  Your visitors will love you for it!

 

 

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Eat Your Own Dog Food

Date posted: February 28, 2013

The phrase “eating your own dog food” has dropped out of vogue over the past few years, replaced by softer metaphors.  It has commonly been used in the software development industry to describe the practice of companies using their own software in their daily operations as proof of concept.  I think it is a metaphor worth some thought in a broader sense and believe the coarseness of the phrase punctuates the point perfectly.

If we act on the premise that we all “make dog food” we can assume some companies make healthy, tasty gourmet dog food.  Other companies make dog food containing bad nasties that shouldn’t be consumed.  Then there are a bunch of companies somewhere in the middle.  The question you should ask yourself as a business owner:  Am I willing to eat the dog food I serve my customers?

If the answer is “heck no and I don’t care” there may be some fundamental issues with your business no marketing company can help with.  If you know you’re not serving gourmet dog food but you want to then there’s hope!  Often the recipe for better dog food begins with a dash of perspective.

It can be challenging to look at your company through a layperson’s eyes because you’re “inside the box”.  After you’ve been in your industry for years and decades it can be difficult to look at your company through a different perspective, but that perspective is critical to your long-term success.   Take the time to go through your own customer experience–or better yet get a close friend who isn’t in your industry to be a “secret shopper”.  Surely any of your friends would be willing to do it for a nice dinner and bottle of wine, and the feedback you collect will be invaluable.  If it’s frustrating for you or your secret shopper to do business with your company you can bet it’s frustrating for your customers. 

Once you figure out what type of dog food you’re serving, add a dash of spices to liven it up a little.  Strive to be gourmet!  Then list all the ingredients that makes your dog food taste better than your competitors.  These are your value propositions.  Work these value propositions into all your marketing (especially your website) and continue to build on these successes.  At the end of the day you’ll figure out that eating your own dog food is a useful and healthy exercise!  Enjoy!

 

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The Truth in Online Reviews

Date posted: February 13, 2013

Many of us look at online reviews when trying to decide whether or not to buy a product.  eBay may have brought the online customer review into the mainstream consciousness.  At least for me, it was a critical part of deciding whether or not I trusted a seller.  These days there are customer reviews attached to everything:  Google Places for Business (aka Google +), Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Amazon.   If we lived in an honest world these reviews would be extremely helpful.  Unfortunately there are some out there who forge reviews in their favor, or leave unfavorable reviews on their competitors.  As a consumer this can be misleading and confusing.  Here are a few tips to help determine if a review is fake or not.

Anonymous Reviews
Anonymous reviews should almost immediately spark some skepticism.  If someone isn’t willing to put their name on their review, how valid is that review?  With the merging  of Google reviews into Google +, now when you leave a Google review it puts your profile picture on the review.  This tremendously adds to the credibility of the reviews.

Polar Reviews
Extremely positive or negative reviews should be met with skepticism.  Any product has positive and negative qualities.  A review that does not acknowledge any positive or negative qualities may not be unbiased.

Single Reviews
When you read a review, click on the reviewer’s profile and see if they’ve contributed reviews for other businesses or products.  If you see the profile only left one review (especially if it’s an anonymous reviewer) you can guess it isn’t legit.

Lumped Reviews
If you see a bunch of reviews lumped around a particular date, especially if they are all positive or negative, may be faked.  However, if you see sporadic reviews over a long period of time you can likely put more credence into them.

Technical Reviews
Reviews that sound like they came directly out of a sales brochure from the company, or contain industry technical jargon should raise a red flag.  Real customers will talk about emotions and how a product solved a problem.

Companies have been paying for good reviews for a number of years.  The FTC ruled in 2009 that companies paying for reviews without disclosing the reviewer was compensated constitutes deceptive advertising, and the companies can be prosecuted for such practices.  Yelp publicly outed companies for paying for reviews last year.   You can guess companies are already trying to find ways to game Facebook’s Social Graph and get sponsored reviews out into social media land.  So keep your critical thinking caps on, dear internet user.  Trust but verify!

 

 

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Password Keepers

Date posted: February 6, 2013

Back in December I read an article on Wired.com titled, “Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore”.  It was one of those moments that slapped me up alongside the head and made me reevaluate the digital world around me.  In some ways it validated that I have taken smart steps in protecting sensitive personal data over the years.  In other ways it made me realize I wasn’t as safe as I thought I was.

We know people don’t choose secure passwords in the first place.  Every time there is a major hack and account information is dumped onto the internet, “password” is still the most-used “password”.  The most common excuse why people don’t use secure passwords?  “I can’t remember them.”  (Yet those same people can rattle off totally useless facts and sports stats galore.  Hmmm….)

Luckily there are Password Managers so you only have to remember one nice secure password.  With that one secure password you can open your Password Manager and allow it to make your online endeavors much more secure.  Your password manager will create super-long and complex passwords (e.g., %rD2aMs!TS4h@z6f) and remember them for you.  When you log into your banking or other sensitive website, your password manager can easily be accessed through your browser, and with a click of a button your password manager can auto-fill your secure login information for you.

Of course there are also security risks with using Password Managers, but I have to guess the risks are much less than using the same password across every website you use. (especially if it’s “password”.)  Just remember to change your super-secure password once a month to add another layer of prudence to your online practices!

If you use these tips in combination with the guidance we provided last week (Fighting Facebook’s Social Graph With Dopplegangers) you greatly improve your online security!

Note:  Password managers are different (and arguably more secure) than the “Remember Password” feature built into browsers.  More information on password keepers: http://lifehacker.com/5944969/which-password-manager-is-the-most-secure

Credit:
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/ff-mat-honan-password-hacker/all/

 

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Fighting Facebook’s Social Graph With Dopplegangers

Date posted: January 30, 2013

The whole premise of social media is to meet people you may never have otherwise met.   It can open business opportunities, introduce you to people all over the world, and perhaps help you meet your future spouse.  It can also open you to significant risk.

Think about your Facebook page or other favorite social media channel of choice.  I bet you’ve exposed lots of sensitive information over time and didn’t even realize it.  You provide personal information right in your profile:  the town where you grew up; where you went to high school/college; your birthday.  Beyond your profile, what pictures have you posted in your social media accounts, and what kind of information do you share about yourself?  Do you root for your favorite sports teams?  Did you upload pictures of your first car?  Do you talk about the first job you ever had?

Now think about the “security questions” you’ve been asked by a website (say, your online banking website) when creating your profile.  These are the Challenge Questions they ask to allow you access into your account if you forgot your password.  In what town did you grow up?  Where did you go to college?  Your favorite sports team?  Your first car?  Your first job? 

Sound familiar?  Are you getting a sinking feeling yet?  You should be. 

With your email address and the information you freely shared on the web, someone can fairly easily get access to some pretty sensitive accounts.  That’s why security experts have been shaking their heads about Facebook’s Social Graph.  It is a phisher’s dream.

So how do you combat it?  You can close down every social media account and never share another thing about yourself online ever again.  But that’s probably not very practical.  So here’s an alternative that can actually be a little fun:  create an alter ego.  Write a whole new life story about yourself.  Maybe you were born in Bermuda and your first job was as a barber pole painter.  Your first pet was a salamander named Gustav and your first car was a 1957 BMW 507.  See how you can have some fun with it?

Now, when websites ask you to complete your Challenge Questions, answer them with your alter ego answers instead of answering them honestly.  Obviously you never want to share your alter ego story with anyone or you’re defeating the purpose.  And don’t forget the old adage about dishonesty:  when you lie you have to remember what you said!

 

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Recommendation Engines

Date posted: January 24, 2013

Helpful? or Diversity Suppressor?

Search engines and social platforms have been stridently moving toward a “recommendation engine” model over the past several years.  That means they track past behavior and try to figure out what information to serve to you based on that past behavior.  In other words, instead of giving you a ‘true’ set of results based on their algorithm, you’re provided with a set of results based on what they think you want because of what you and others have done in the past.

How do you feel about that?

In order to provide recommendations based on your past behavior, that means Google, Facebook, and other platforms using this model must store data about your past online behavior.  Searches you’ve done, websites you’ve visited, how long you’ve stayed there, etc.  Privacy advocates aren’t too happy about that, but the companies in question promise the data is stored without identifiable information attached. 

But beyond privacy, what do you think about the fact that results are based on your past behavior?  This model assumes that your tastes will never evolve, and assumes they can predict what you would like. 

I don’t know about you, but I have a diverse set of tastes.  When I go my favorite restaurant (we’ll call this restaurant ‘Google’) I may have a favorite menu item, but I may want to try different things on the menu just for the sake of trying something new.  But if the restaurant staff immediately serves me Two Friends Panang every time I walk through the door, I won’t have a chance to be exposed to other things on their menu.  Other things I may like better.

Even worse, what if my favorite waitress (we’ll call her ‘Facebook’) forced me to eat what she wanted me to eat every time I came to the restaurant?  I’m pretty sure I would build up some resentment over time.  I don’t like people making decisions for me. 

So while I understand the need for fancy algorithms to aid us in accessing the volumes of information we seek every day, do we need all these “personalization” algorithms?  And anyway, can you fancy schmancy programmers really guess what I want?  Am I that predictable?  When I log onto iTunes and see the ridiculous suggestions displayed by their Genius, the answer is a resounding “no”.

 

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L.Mae Boutique Ready for Online Shoppers

Date posted: January 17, 2013

L.Mae Boutique is a new online store designed to feature the best of modern women’s fashion.  Located in Charleston, SC, L.Mae initially used Payvment to sell their clothes online to gather some exposure for their products.  However they became aware they needed a full web presence to be effective and competitive online.  

The website design and layout prominently features the clothing and keeps ancillary clutter to a minimum.  This allows the products to take prominence on each page.   The shopping cart developed by Webtivity Designs for this project has the capability to integrate social sharing into each individual product.  That allows shoppers to share items they like in their favorite social media channels.  This exposes L.Mae to their customers’ social media audiences, exponentially increasing their reach. 

Webtivity also developed a Facebook application to promote $10 off your first purchase to celebrate the launch of the website to help increase Facebook likes and increase sales.

Like L.Mae on Facebook to get your gift code and then Shop at www.lmaeboutique.com!

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Chelsea Gonzalez Fan Site Launched

Date posted: December 20, 2012

Chelsea Gonzalez, an actress and Sarasota native, has launched a new fan website with the assistance of Webtivity Designs.  At the age of 18 Chelsea packed her bags and moved to Syracuse to attend the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University.  After earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts she moved to New York City to begin her acting career. 

Chelsea has been active in regional theater, and has worked under the direction of visionary Robert Moss, key founder of the Playwrights Horizons Theater.  She landed a part in the Investigation Discovery’s crime drama TV series Evil, I “The Sunday Morning Slasher” (2012).  And when Chelsea isn’t working her craft, she is involved with Co/Lab (Creative Opportunities without Limits or Boundaries) which teaches acting to persons with disabilities. 

Chelsea’s new fan site was developed using the WordPress blogging platform so Chelsea can easily post on her blogs when she’s up to something new, and also more easily connect with fans on social media. So go connect with Chelsea and watch as she becomes the next bright star.  Break a leg, Chelsea!

Check out Chelsea’s new fan site at:
www.chelseagonzalez.com

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Domain Renewal Services

Date posted: December 6, 2012

Every so often we see a rash of “domain renewal services” notices that come to our clients so we have to do a PSA.  This is our latest.

These notices typically arrive by snail mail or fax.  They probably come by email too.  At first glance they look very official.  At first glance they also look like a bill to renew your web address (your www.)  However, if you take time out of your busy day to read it closely you will see statements like, “This is a solicitation… and not a bill…” 

You decide if it’s deceptive advertising or not, but by the number of “what’s this?” emails we get from our clients regarding these things they are at best very poorly designed and unclear….  One of our clients forwarded a sample solicitation they received so it is at right for you to view as an example (click to see a larger view).  However there are many companies that send similar advertisements.

Webtivity manages domains for many of our Clients, so they never have to worry about these types of solicitations.  Our clients who do manage their own domains need to be aware of these advertisements and should continue to do business with their registrar.

 

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Giving Responsibily

Date posted: November 27, 2012

Every year we are compelled to donate our time or money to charitable causes.  With years of a poor economy in our midst charities have had a tough time raising money.  That’s why when we do donate to a charity we should make sure as much of our donation as possible goes to the actual cause itself.  Unfortunately for some charities, donations get gobbled up in “administrative costs” and a very low percentage of donations actually go where you intended.  According to charity watchdog organizations, you should try to target your giving toward organizations that allocate at minimum 60-70% of donations toward their cause.  Luckily there are a few tools at our disposal to help guide our giving.

GuideStar’s mission is “To revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”  By signing up as a charity you can provide up to date information on your organization and help keep their database up to date.  As a consumer, you can signup to research a charity and insure they are in good standing with the IRS.  You can also order more advanced reports if you are doing research for planned giving or you want to give on behalf of your company.  To learn more about GuideStar please visit their website: www.guidestar.org

Charity Navigator’s mission is “…to guide intelligent giving. By guiding intelligent giving, we aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation’s and the world’s most persistent challenges.”  Charity Navigator uses their methodologies to rate charities on their Financial Health and also Accountability & Transparency.  To learn more about Charity Navigator please visit their website: www.charitynavigator.org

Know of any other great resources to help qualify a charity before donating?  Please share!  If businesses and individuals use these types of tools to insure their donations are being maximized it will benefit everyone involved.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Webtivity!

Date posted: November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

A huge Thank You to all our loyal clients, many who have been with us for over 10 years.  We truly appreciate your business and we wish everyone an amazing Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the holiday with your families… and don’t shop too hard!

– The Webtivity Team

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Apps for the Holiday Season

Date posted: November 20, 2012

‘Tis the season to SHOP!  Black Friday is upon us and people are already camping out in line anticipating the super-awesome deals retailers advertise to funnel the hordes of shoppers through their front doors.  On your marks… get set… HOLD ON A SECOND!

Why not load up on some technology before loading your shopping cart?  Here are a few smartphone apps that can help you be a better shopper:

The Coupons App
Clipping coupons is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  With this free mobile app you can get coupons for your favorite stores delivered straight to your smartphone.  (Download from your favorite app store or visit their website: www.thecouponsapp.com)

Key Ring
How many Rewards Cards are collecting dust in a drawer at home because you can’t carry all of them in your wallet?  This free mobile app allows you to scan your Rewards Cards and then store them all in one convenient place: your smartphone.  No more excuses for carrying around that man bag!  (Download from your favorite app store or visit their website: www.keyringapp.com)

ShopSavvy
This handy little app is still around.  Scan a product’s UPC code and do comparison shopping right in the store!  ShopSavvy will tell you which brick and mortar and online retailers also carry the products you scan and how much they cost.  No more driving across town to another retailer only to find out it was cheaper where you started.  (Download from your favorite app store or visit their website: www.shopsavvy.mobi)

Zoomingo
With a focus on clothes, shoes, jewelry, handbags, beauty and home products, this free mobile app helps shoppers find the best sales in 80+ retail stores.  You can also follow products they post to Pinterest and receive alerts when they drop in price.   (Download from your favorite app store or visit their website: www.zoomingo.com)

Have any other favorite shopping apps you like to use?  Let us know!  Shop safe, shop smart, and have fun!!

 

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Flying Fish Fleet Launches Mobile Website

Date posted: November 14, 2012

For over forty years the Flying Fish Fleet has offered fishing adventures for people all over Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice. They have a four boat fleet, offering three types of fishing experiences on the Florida Gulf Coast. 

Flying Fish Fleet’s business is heavily dependent on tourism traffic, and their website traffic statistics show that many people access their website from mobile devices.  As a result, Webtivity advised that a mobile-friendly website be added to their online marketing arsenal to allow people who reach their website on a mobile device a hassle-free experience.  The mobile website is designed to quickly provide mobile visitors with a way to call to book a trip or get directions.  The mobile website also provides visitors with information on each of the three different types of fishing experiences:

Flying Fish and Flying Fish II
Classic, family friendly party fishing boats that offer half day, six hour and eight hour trips in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Buster
Versatile 24’ Pathfinder bay boat capable of fishing back country flats as well as inshore reefs. Together with an experienced captain she offers a private charter experience, whether sport fishing or sightseeing.

The Big Catch
Air conditioned 43’ Hatteras private charter boat. She carries up to 6 guests, includes a full line of custom fishing tackle and is professionally serviced by both a Captain and Mate for the ultimate private charter fishing experience.

To learn more about booking your fishing charter visit their website:
www.flyingfishfleet.com

 

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Chamber Expo QR Scavenger Hunt Winners

Date posted: November 8, 2012

Thank you to the Manatee Chamber of Commerce for allowing us to sponsor the QR Scavenger Hunt this year at the Bradenton Area Convention Center!  The event went off without a hitch, and everyone we spoke to felt this year’s event was better than ever.  Even better for our QR Scavenger Hunt, there seemed to be NO phone reception issues in the Convention Center for iPhone users, which had been an issue for some at the previous event location.  

This year’s prizes were awesome as usual, a big THANK YOU to all the prize sponsors:


    Alpentouristik Travel:
    20″ Expandable ABS Carry-On Luggage
    WINNER:  Wesley B.


    Buffalo Wild Wings:
    Crate of Signature Sauces
    WINNER: Haley R.


    Chiles Group:
    $25 Gift Card
    WINNER:  Caitlin E.


    Grow Financial:
    Kindle e-Reader
    WINNER:  Shed C.


    Publix:
    $50 Gift Card
    WINNER:  Barbara H.

 

If you are a winner and have not claimed your prize, please contact:

Manatee Chamber of Commerce
Carey Miller
(941) 748-4842 x 113

Thank you for participating!

 

 

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HipGent Now Live

Date posted: October 31, 2012

Gear and Gifts for Men

Just in time for the holidays, HipGent is the place to find the perfect gift for the hip gent in your life.  And if you are a hip gent, then go start making your shopping list right away!  You can find anything a guy could want here– electronics, clothing, outdoor gear, mancave accessories, barbequing gear, video games, movies… you name it!  Where else could you find a stainless steel soap bar??  (And who knew it existed?)

The great thing is that HipGent.com has already done your homework for you.  No need to search the web endlessly for great gift ideas, they have already found the coolest gifts that any man would love and put them all in one place.  You can shop by category or by price range.  If you’re just window shopping you can also create a Wish List and come back later when you’re ready to buy and load the products in your cart.

The products you purchase through the HipGent website are all processed and delivered through Amazon.com.  That means you have the security and peace of mind that comes with the Amazon experience.

So you can either buy another crappy tie for the special man in your life, or go find an awesome gift he will tell all his friends about.  Start shopping now and find something to scratch your man’s itch:  www.hipgent.com

 

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Lakewood Financial Launches New Website

Date posted: October 8, 2012

Great Insurance, Great Service, Peace of Mind

Insurance is one of those things you may only think about once a year when you renew your policies.  Or worse, when you need it and realize you don’t have the coverage you should have.  You probably wonder if you’re getting the best rates, and if you have the right coverage.  But you’re way too busy, and you don’t have the time to sit in a phone queue waiting to talk to someone who probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about anyway.

<“Your call is very important to us…  You’re currently number 47 in line… you have a wait time of approximately 567 minutes… don’t forget you can log onto our website at www…..”>  

CLICK.

Lakewood Financial is an independent insurance broker that has been serving the greater Bradenton and Sarasota areas since 2003.  They recently have affiliated with the Pacific Crest Independent Insurance Alliance to offer their clients even more options when shopping for the right policies.  Lakewood Financial has extensive knowledge in the following areas:

The benefit of purchasing your insurance through an independent broker is that they represent multiple carriers and have the flexibility to offer you more options.  Lakewood Financial has access to over 700 different trusted  insurance carriers in their network, so they can find the right fit for almost any situation. 

An independent broker also has a vested interest in keeping you happy.   In contrast, a claims representative has a particular customer service template they follow, but ultimately they are not going to be as motivated to advise you to the best of their ability and keep you happy.

If you use an independent broker you also have the flexibility of changing insurance companies without changing agents.  That allows you to develop a long-term relationship with someone you trust who will get to know you and your family’s needs.

 To learn more about Lakewood Financial, please visit their website:  www.lwfinancial.com.

 

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Consolidated Resource Recovery Launches New Website

Date posted: October 2, 2012

Proven leaders in land clearing and yard waste recycling

Consolidated Resource Recovery (CRR) has launched a new website design with the assistance of Webtivity Design Solutions.  CRR provides land clearing and wood waste recycling services for private developers, contractors, transportation providers, government agencies, and the Department of Transportation.

CRR helps contractors and project managers meet cost and schedule constraints for commercial land clearing and recycling project, as their large fleet of tub grinders, track horizontal grinders, and other heavy equipment get the job done fast and right for their clients.

Their municipal yard waste management services help cities and counties across Florida stay clean and green.  CRR performs these services on the job sites or at one of their locations, as they intake, grind, screen, and recycle yard waste into usable, Eco-friendly soils, mulches, biomass fuels, and landfill cover amendments.

CRR offers three convenient yard waste recycling facilities in Sarasota/Bradenton, Pinellas Park and Tampa, where they annually process and recycle hundreds of thousands of tons of wood and yard waste.

For more information on Consolidated Resource Recovery please visit their website: www.resourcerecovery.com

 

 

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GoodSports Village Concept Becomes a Reality

Date posted: September 26, 2012

Exciting Economic Engine

GoodSports Enterprises, LLC officially kicked off their GoodSports Village concept with the launch of their new website.  This innovative operating model is centered on a ‘GoodSports Fieldhouse’, a 55,000 square-foot multi-use facility professionally designed to be a premier destination for indoor sports in your community.  To complement the GoodSports Fieldhouse, a GoodSports Village can also be adjoined by ‘GoodSports Campus Lodging’, a 115 room hotel facility, and ‘Splash Universe’, a 22 acre outdoor water park.

The GoodSports model is a great community partner with local municipalities, Convention and Visitors Bureaus and sports commissions to promote tourism, local spending and youth participation.  GoodSports Village will be a catalyst for economic growth and development by attracting attendees from outside the marketplace contributing to the local economy by creating jobs, increasing tax revenues and encouraging development of additional commercial partners such as hotels, restaurants, family entertainment attracts and retailers.  The first GoodSports Village, a $270-million 370-acre project, has been approved by the Wichita City Council in Kansas and is awaiting approval from the state. There is also a GoodSports project planned for the Lakewood Ranch community.

GoodSports Enterprises, LLC has partnered with OAN Events and Sports Marketing, Inc. to educate communities around the country about the potential economic impact of a GoodSports Village.  They have partnered with Webtivity Design Solutions to help build brand awareness through internet marketing.

You can find GoodSports Village online at www.goodsportsenterprises.com.

 

 

 

 

 


About GoodSports Enterprises, LLC

Headquartered in Sarasota, FL, GoodSports Enterprises, LLC is part of the Focus group of companies – a development, construction and management company specializing in hotels, water parks, and sports recreation facilities. Over the past 30 years, Focus companies have successfully built and operated over 54 hotels, resorts and entertainment properties. As a developer and operator, the company currently employs over 500 people. In 2004, Focus Hospitality Services, LLC was honored as “Developer of the Year” by the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG).

About OAN Events and Sports Marketing, Inc.
OAN brings 25 years of experience in the youth sports industry and provides relationships with local, state, regional, and national sports organization decision makers and event rights holders. The company’s principals keep abreast of national trends in youth sports and tourism, serving on committees at the state and national level through the Florida Sports Foundation, National Association of Sports Commissions, and various industry trade publications such as Sports Trends Magazine. Through these associations and relationships, we have developed a reputation as leaders in providing youth sports, tourism and event consulting services.  For more information: www.oanmarketing.com


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Riverhouse Launches New Websites

Date posted: September 18, 2012

Restaurant, Banquet Center and Marina Get Fresh, Innovative Look

If you’ve been around Sarasota / Bradenton for any length of time, you’ve almost certainly spent time at Riverhouse Reef and Grill.  The restaurant is a unique dining experience located on the north side of the Manatee River.  Sunsets, dolphins, free boat slips, the adjoining Regatta Pointe Marina, the Riverhouse Wedding and Banquet Center, live entertainment and Happy Hours are just the beginning of what Riverhouse has to offer.  The restaurant and banquet center were built on a man-made reef so diners and banquet attendees can relish one of the most beautiful views in Manatee County while enjoying fine dining and  in a casual atmosphere.

VanDerNoord Partners,  who owns the three properties, hired Webtivity to upgrade the look of the websites to help show off all the fantastic amenities, the charm and atmosphere of the restaurant, drive marina traffic, and attract banquet and event reservations. 

The structure of the three websites were kept similar enough to maintain consistent branding across all three properties, yet each were given their own unique identities so website visitors could easily determine which website they are on.   Because of the distinctive location, amazing views and magazine-worthy food presentation, photography also plays a large part of setting the tone for the website.   Website visitors can “hide” the content areas and look at the photos which also automatically rotate in the background.  You can also choose Day and Night views to change the colors of the background.  Future initiatives include mobile websites and attention to email and social media marketing.

Check out their new websites, and then get in your car or boat and go see what makes Riverhouse one of the best places to visit in Manatee County!

Riverhouse Reef and Grill
Restaurant website
995 Riverside Drive, Palmetto, FL 34221
(map it)

Riverhouse Wedding and Banquet Center
Banquet website
1001 Riverside Drive, Palmetto FL 34221
(map it)

Regatta Pointe Marina
Marina website
1005 Riverside Drive, Palmetto FL 34221
(map it)

 

 

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GoDaddy Issues Apology

Date posted: September 12, 2012

And Credit to Customers

GoDaddy Customers received an apology email this morning which also contained a credit to their accounts.  Within an hour of the problems GoDaddy experienced on Monday, competitors such as HostGator were tweeting with relevant hash tags (e.g., #TangoDown) trying to lure angry customers away.  GoDaddy’s official explanation of the outage is that it was a technical issue, not a result of hacking as was the early social media rumor. 

We all know that no company is perfect, and when it comes to technology we rely on, it can be incredibly frustrating when a massive techno-failure occurs.  How a company responds during and after such an event often defines how they are viewed by their current customers and the public at large.  I’m not sure how many customers GoDaddy lost as a result of Monday’s outage, but as a customer I certainly appreciated the account credit that arrived in my inbox this morning.

You can click the screenshot at right to read the GoDaddy apology letter.

 

 

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Vinology at South Florida Museum

Date posted: September 11, 2012

QR Scavenger Hunt

Vinology is an evening filled with opportunities to eat, drink, laugh and learn at the South Florida Museum featuring wines and beers from around the world paired with small bites from the area’s best restaurants.  Due to popular demand Webtivity will be hosting another QR Scavenger Hunt at this year’s event!  Attendees with smartphones will use their favorite bar code scanner app to scan QR’s “hidden” all around the museum.  Each time a participant scans a new QR, they will be entered into a random drawing that will place at the end of each hour.  At the end of the night a random winner will be drawn for a grand prize!

Vinology Online Tickets 2012
Friday September 14
6:00 PM  –  10:00 PM
(map it)

*Please note: Tickets purchased after September 7th, 2012 will be available for pick-up at the check-in table during the event. Please email Tara at tcarr@southfloridamuseum.org should you have any questions or special requests.
 
VIP Tickets: $125/person
– Early admission at 6 p.m., join us in the courtyard for a wine education seminar, private cooking demonstration along with outstanding local cuisine & wine tastings

General Admission Tickets: $75/person
– Admission at 7 p.m. to include wine & food tastings from some of the area’s best restaurants

For more information and to purchase tickets online: Buy Tickets Now

See you there!

 

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WordPress is Not a Shopping Cart

Date posted: September 5, 2012

And Doesn’t Cure the Common Cold

Before you get out the flamethrower, let me start off by saying I love WordPress and use it to… well, blog.  (WordPress was after all originally developed as a blogging platform.)  Over the years entrepreneurial developers have created thousands of add-ons to  extend WordPress’ functionality.  Some have been awesome, some have been less than awesome.  Many are secure, while many others have security vulnerabilities and are susceptible to hacking.  Sometimes the plugin developer stops supporting it and when you update your WordPress version the plugin breaks.  Then you’re left either spending a lot of money to fix it, or not updating your WordPress, leaving it open to security vulnerabilities.

People in our industry have extended WordPress’ functionality to create websites.  More experienced web designers are better than others at pulling it off.  The only problem is that the more you customize the layout so the website doesn’t look like a blog, the more you have to “hard-code” areas of the website.  That means you’re taking away the ability for non-HTML-savvy clients to make changes to large areas of the website, even though likely one of the reasons you promoted WordPress for them is because of its content management capabilities.

What disappoints me is when WordPress (or any platform for that matter) is misrepresented and improperly recommended to clients when other solutions would work better and be more feature-rich and scalable.  A bit of advice I always give potential clients who are asking about Content Management Systems or eCommerce platforms is to call around and ask web development companies what platforms they use.   The answer is often a quick, “We use ‘X’ because it is the best thing since sliced bread and can do anything you want and more!”  (I’m paraphrasing.)

The right answer is, “Let’s find out more about your needs and long-term goals and select the right platform for you.”  If you have any aspirations of growing an eCommerce website to a large enterprise I’m sorry but WordPress with an eCommerce plugin isn’t the way to go.  With PCI Compliance and scalability concerns, I’m going to recommend a real shopping cart to my clients all day long.

Unfortunately I think some web developers often get attached to a single solution because it’s what they know.  Human nature kicks in and they don’t go outside their comfort zone.  Human nature is as much a problem in our industry as any other.  And sometimes we also get so focused on closing the sale we don’t take the time to fulfill our most important role with our clients: consultant. 

I have turned down business more than once because we didn’t offer the solution the client needed.  When I could I connected them with someone who did.  That’s what a responsible consultant does.  It pays dividends in goodwill for your company and prevents your company from getting a bad reputation because you couldn’t deliver what you promised.  There are bound to be positives and negatives to any solution you recommend.  Educate your clients and allow them to make an informed decision, they will love you for it.

So disagree if you like, flame me if you must, I believe my argument is firmly grounded.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to online marketing.  Prove me wrong!

 

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Client: “SEO My Site”

Date posted: August 30, 2012

Response: “Not Without a Culture Change”

One of the biggest challenges in our industry is the endless cornucopia of bad advice, misinformation and misunderstanding about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  A basic thing to understand about SEO is that it is not the be-all-end-all.  It is only a single tool in your online marketing toolbox.  SEO is also not something super-secret you do to your website.  It is not something you do once, high-five each other and forget about.  It is part of a comprehensive strategy.

Comprehensive means blogging, social media and all the things that cause loud groans and eye rolls when I mention them to clients.  Which typically means a Culture Change within your organization.  Sorry, but if you’re in a competitive market you must be doing these things for your SEO.  And guess what?  If you’re doing them right it will also increase your exposure to potential customers!

And therein lies the culture change that many organizations must decide to embark upon for their future health.  Not many people like to write, and fewer people are actually good at it.  Blogging and content writing are often the largest objections I get when people ask “what needs to be done so I rank better?” and I explain how crucial social media and blogging are for SEO.  Sure you can hire some company to post things on your blog and social media channels that they post on hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other blogs and social media channels.  But do that and you lose the one thing that Google loves über alles: high quality, unique content. 

At minimum your online marketing company should be your strategic advisor–helping you dream up creative ideas and campaigns.  They can also help you properly distribute your content and maximize its potential for the search engines.  However, sorry to be the purveyor of bad news, but you really should allocate internal resources to blogging and content creation.   You are, after all, the expert in your field are you not?  Leverage that expertise, tell the world about it.  Take some ownership of your online marketing — and gain some SEO love and customers in the process!

 

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South Florida Museum News

Date posted: August 21, 2012

Mobile Website Launched

The latest digital initiatives for the South Florida Museum have been launched with the assistance of Webtivity.  Design updates have been made to the main website to help communicate the myriad events always happening at the museum.  A new mobile website was also launched which offers a more convenient experience for people visiting the website on their mobile device.  Visitors can quickly obtain directions, hours, ticket prices and phone numbers when they arrive.  The main exhibit and planetarium schedules are also available.  Visitors can also easily connect with any of the museum’s many social media properties to stay connected with museum communications.  And finally, visitors can access the museum’s donation portal where they can generously make a donation to help assuage the museum’s operating costs.

To view the mobile website, visit www.southfloridamuseum.org on your mobile device.

Direct link: www.southfloridamuseum.org/Mobile


About The South Florida Museum
The South Florida Museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, featuring engaging exhibits as well as educational programs which interpret the scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world and our universe. The facility includes the all-digital Bishop Planetarium Theater and Parker Manatee Aquarium which is home to Snooty™, the oldest known manatee in the world. The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th Street West in downtown Bradenton. For more information, please call Emmalee Legler, Communications Manager, at 941-746-4131, extension 14.

 

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Facebook Photo Tagging Etiquette

Date posted: August 15, 2012

 Don’t Be a So-and-So

Have you ever received an alert from Facebook that “so-and-so tagged a photo of you”?  This notification can probably elicit a wide range of emotions when it comes in.  Panic if you just had an especially wild weekend and you can’t remember all the details.  Or perhaps impatience if it shows up from someone you don’t know and you suspect you’re being spammed.

I was going about my morning routine earlier this week and my phone buzzed with a Facebook notification.  I picked up my Android and it said, “So-and-so tagged a photo of you”.  Problem was, I didn’t know so-and-so and it was 6 o’clock in the morning–who would be tagging me at 6AM?  I had a feeling I was going to see a lame attempt at getting me to look at something I wasn’t really interested in when I clicked to look at the photo.  My suspicions were justified, it was someone hawking their products and they were tagging a bunch of people on their product photos. 

In the short time it took me to look at the photo and go to so-and-so’s Facebook page, there were already a string of angry comments streaming in.  While some of the language was colorful (click picture at right), the theme of the comments was that people were un-following this page.  In droves.

Using these underhanded tactics to try to get people to look at your products doesn’t work.  It polarizes your audience and gives you a bad reputation.  My advice for the day: Don’t be a so-and-so and Market Responsibly!!

 

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Chinese Domain Registration Scam

Date posted: August 8, 2012

Beware of “URGENT Brand Confirmation” Emails

I receive about one call or email a month from one of our clients who see this scam email and worry that it may be legitimate.  I received an email this morning from a client and just happened to have one of these sitting in my spam folder too this morning so I decided to do a quick PSA. 

The theme of these spam emails is that someone in China wants to register your domain name in China, and this “selfless company” is giving you first crack at it since you own your brand in the United States.  Worry not, this email has been making its rounds in email inbox’s for years.  When you see it or any of its variations you can click the spam button and go about your day.

Here is a sample email so you can be prepared when they arrive:

Dear CEO/Principal,
I’m sorry to disturb you so abruptly.  This is Barton Liu—Head of Registration Department of domain name registration and solution center in Shanghai, China, which mainly deals with the global company’s domain name and Network Brand registration and internet Intellectual property rights’ protection in asia. Currently, we have a pretty important issue need to confirm with your company.
 
On July 16th, 2012, we received an application formally. One company named ‘Sonila In’t Co. Ltd’ had been applying for the Network Brand ‘webtivitydesigns’ and some relevant domain names in the asia market through our body.
Now we are handling this registration and we found that the keyword of these domain names and net brand are identical with your company’s. So now we need to confirm a couple of things with you:
1. If your company consigns ‘Sonila In’t Co. Ltd’ to register these domain names and net brand, we will send an application form to them and help them finish the registration at once.
2. If your company has nothing to do with ‘Sonila In’t Co. Ltd’, they maybe have other purposes to register these domain names and network brand.
 
We haven’t finished the registration of ‘Sonila In’t Co. Ltd’ yet, and we have postponed the application of this company temporarily already. In order to deal with this issue better, please contact us by telephone or email as soon as possible.
Best Regards,
Barton Liu
Registration Department

A good rule of thumb to follow for most business owners:  if you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know you should view it with a very skeptical eye.  If you receive an unsolicited email from someone outside the country, be doubly vigilant.  (Except when you’ve been told you just won the lottery….   I’m Joking!!)

 

 

 

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Anna Maria Island Chamber 2012 Small Business Expo

Date posted: August 3, 2012

Webtivity Design Solutions is proud to sponsor the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Small Business Development Expo.  Great Keynote Speakers, great networking and great business exposure!

Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Time: 9AM – 4PM
Location: CrossPointe Fellowship Church  (map it)

 

Contact the Chamber at 941-778-1541 or info@amichamber.org for more information on reserving a booth and purchasing tickets.  See you there!

AMI Chamber Sm Business Expo

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TripAdvisor Notification

Date posted: July 30, 2012

Increasing Rankings Not Allowed

TripAdvisor just sent an email notification to their customers that a company has been contacting TripAdvisor customers and offering to “boost their TripAdvisor ranking”.  This is against TripAdvisor’s business model and they are apparently taking steps to prevent this from occurring.  The email message is below as well as a screenshot for your reference.  If you are a TripAdvisor customer you can log into your TripAdvisor Management Center for more information.

 The email notification received is as follows:

IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION
It has been brought to our attention that a number of properties have been contacted by a company promising to boost their TripAdvisor ranking. TripAdvisor treats any attempt to improperly influence its website very seriously. We are currently performing a thorough investigation into this company, which is operating under the name TripAdvisorSuccess.com. We have alerted the relevant authorities and are working with them on this matter. If you should have any concerns, please contact us via the Management Center.

 

 

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Facebook Privacy Notice

Date posted: July 25, 2012

Another Urban Legend

I thought after this silly soliloquy started getting passed around Facebook and there was a collective belly-laugh from every reputable blogger and media source on the planet that this thing would quickly go away.  Nope.  Apparently it’s destined to be as sexy and pervasive as Lolcats.  I continue to see people posting the following on their Facebook pages,  believing it somehow protects their “privacy”:

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Sorry to burst your bubble people, but only if it were so easy!  When you signed up for a Facebook account you agreed to their Terms.  Every time Facebook updates their Terms and you continue to use Facebook you are agreeing to their Terms.  Facebook explicitly says they will comply with any law enforcement requests (even if those requests come from outside the United States).  No post on your wall or picture you post in your Photos area will change any of that.

So the number one rule to follow when using social media websites:  consider everything you post online as public domain, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother (or future employer) to see! 

 

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Bing Ahead of the Curve?

Date posted: July 17, 2012

Spider-Man Would Approve

If you went to see The Amazing Spider-Man movie you probably noticed Peter Parker doing online research using the Bing search engine.  Those scenes have been somewhat of a joke in the online marketing community, because EVERYONE knows that a geek like Peter Parker would use Google to do online research!

Since Microsoft merged with Yahoo and their search engines became one, many in the Search Engine Optimization world have been skeptical about Bing at best.  It seems the only way Bing can get search engine market share is by partnering with PC makers like Dell and having their search engine installed by default (and hope their users aren’t smart enough to figure out how to change their default search engine.)

But Bing has answered a big criticism that has been leveled against Google over the past few months and has gotten the red-headed stepchild of search engines some kudos in our industry.  For years one of the primary ranking factors for Google’s search engine has been the quality and authority of the websites that link to you.  In some ways Google has doubled down on those ranking factors over the past year or so with their Panda and Penguin updates.  This has led to some speculation (and proof) that if you want to wage a dirty “negative SEO” war against your competitors you could theoretically build poor quality “black hat”  links to their website in an effort to harm their rankings—and succeed.  Enter Bing’s recent update.

Likely in response to many in our industry’s vociferous requests for Google to allow companies to refuse the effects of links coming into your website, Bing has rolled out their “Disavow Links” tool which allows just that.  So even if your competitor decides to play a trick on you, there is some recourse.  However, Bing does clearly state that you shouldn’t expect “large increases” in your rankings as a result of using this tool.

My guess is that Google engineers are wringing their hands on this one.  If they allow this type of retort from website owners, it basically gives companies endless mulligans.  “Oops you caught me building links from poor quality websites—must have been my competitor trying to hurt my rankings, please don’t count those links anymore.”  If I were a betting man I would guess Google will refuse to follow suit on this one.  But then again, I don’t gamble much.

 

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Glarus Gourmet Re-launches eCommerce Website

Date posted: July 12, 2012

Chocolate Transfer Sheets For Any Occasion

Glarus Gourmet, headquartered in Benicia, CA, has re-launched their eCommerce website with the assistance of Webtivity Design Solutions, an internet marketing company based in Bradenton, FL.  The refreshed design and layout better showcases their high quality transfer sheets designed for any occasion.  Glarus Gourmet can even add a company logo or personal monogram to pre-made chocolate wafers for corporate events, weddings, or any other special event.  

Transfer sheets help confectionaries create beautiful decorations for your desserts and cupcakes.  A chocolate design is printed onto one side of an acetate sheet using cocoa butter and food coloring.  Then tempered chocolate is spread evenly across the cocoa-buttered side of the sheet.  Once the chocolate is set and has hardened, the sheet is peeled away and you are left with an amazing looking dessert!

You can purchase chocolate transfer sheets securely online from Glarus Gourmet at www.chocotransfersheets.com.

 

 

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How to Report a Fake Facebook Business Page

Date posted: June 21, 2012

Facebook (Scams) for Business

I received an email from a client earlier this week who received a strange call from a young woman in Kentucky.  She called to ask about the free beach towels their company was giving away for “liking” their Facebook page.  Come again??  

Turns out a scammer created a fake Facebook page using their company logo and identifying information, and created an application to capture personal information.  “Like us and get a free beach towel”, the landing page said.  As soon as you Like the company page,  a form is presented for you to complete your name and mailing address to receive your “free towel”.

Our guess is the scammer is trying to collect as much data as possible before the page gets shut down so they can turn around and sell it to data mining companies who pay good money for personal information.  Anyone who submitted their name and address through the form can expect to get on lots of junk mail lists in the near future.  

Facebook makes it relatively easy to report someone for impersonating a person, but it takes a little digging if you want to report that someone is impersonating your business.  My advice to our client was to report the page for trademark/copyright infringement since it used their company name, logo and identifiable information.  The link to report such violations is located here: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact/?id=208282075858952

Unfortunately because of the size of Facebook and the number of users, situations like this do not get resolved very quickly.  As of this posting the page is still live, and the # of Likes continues to increase.  Who knows how many unsuspecting people are submitting their contact information to the scammer in the meantime?  For years many have questioned why Facebook doesn’t put more strict controls in place to prevent these situations from occurring.  It seems the most obvious solution is to make a business prove they are who they say they are before creating a page.  But that creates an entry barrier, and also would cause a resource drain for Facebook (read:  it would cost them money) so don’t expect this to happen any time soon.

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Getting Hacked

Date posted: June 13, 2012

The Importance of Security
I have gotten a rash of calls recently from businesses that need help because their websites have been hacked. Business owners rarely understand how hacking occurs and the potential ramifications of it.  Whether you own an ecommerce website, Content Management System or a Blog, you need to be aware that you are a potential target.

Human Hackers
This is often what people picture when they think about hacking. They envision some guy sitting in a dark room donning a ski mask tapping away at his keyboard targeting the largest corporations in the world so they can hit their payday. This misconception leads to comments I hear from business owners such as: “I’m just a small company; no hacker would ever waste their time on me.” Truth is, hackers are focusing increasingly on small businesses, because small business owners don’t take security seriously and it is often very easy for hackers to gain entry to their networks and steal important data.

Here is a New York Times article detailing how a small engineering and construction company lost $125,000 due to hacking—and why their bank didn’t cover their losses.

Automated Hacking
This form of hacking has been on the rise over the past 10 years and continues to gain in popularity. This is most often how websites get hacked—hackers create “bots” that constantly crawl the internet looking for popular Content Management Systems, blogging platforms, shopping cart software, and other web applications. When the bot finds what it’s seeking, it automatedly hacks the website and plants malicious code on the website. The malicious code can be designed to do a wide range of things, such as infect the computers of people who visit the website or plant code designed for the search engines to find (such as links to websites, which passes power from that website to the website the hacker is trying to rank.) When your website is hacked, Google will post a big warning in their search engine results pages warning people not to visit the website because it has been compromised. Also, modern browsers will alert users not to visit your website if it has been compromised. Imagine what that will do to your website traffic! And the problem is, once your website has been hacked, the bot will continually return and re-hack your website if you don’t fix the vulnerability. It can be an extremely frustrating situation.

Here is a recent blog post from Google engineer Matt Cutts talking about this type of hacking and the importance of keeping your website and hosting environment protected.

 

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Google Places is History

Date posted: June 7, 2012

Google Transitions to Google+ Pages for Business

Google has been trying to get more subscribers to Google+ and they implemented a change this week that they hope will begin to increase adoption.  This week Google phased out Google Places, which contained company information, maps, directions, and customer reviews.  Google Places has been replaced with Google+ Pages for Business.  For some internet marketers this may end up being a welcome change, with all the schizophrenic behavior we’ve seen in Google Places over the past year.   Hopefully once they work out the kinks, the “maps” listings in Google’s organic results will start ranking more consistently than they have been.

One of the new features is the integration of Zagat reviews into the Google+ business pages.  (For those of you not aware, Google purchased Zagat for $151 million back in September.)   Where Zagat once charged for their service, Google is now integrating it into their business pages for free.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is planning on rolling out a service as early as July called “Business Builder”.  This service will likely integrate other products from the Google suite such as Google Wallet, Google Offers, AdWords Express, Punchd and TalkBin.  This is meant to further the importance of Local Search and mobile marketing, and make small businesses further dependent on Google products to promote themselves online.  So for now fire up your Google+ account and start getting familiar with it—more changes are coming and it’s likely Google+ will continue to be pushed toward the center of the Google universe.

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Florida Fence Launches New Website

Date posted: May 30, 2012

Strong Irish Tradition

Florida Fence has launched a new website with the assistance of Webtivity Designs.  Florida Fence is the regions’ oldest and largest fence manufacturing company. Since 1958 Florida Fence has been manufacturing and installing fences for commercial and residential customers.  Florida Fence specializes in PVC and vinyl fences, wood fences, aluminum fences, and chain link fences and offers a wide range of styles and designs.

The Dermody’s moved to the Sarasota area from Missouri where they owned a residential and commercial real estate development company and general contracting business.  Using this background and experience they have improved their Sarasota showroom so customers can conveniently choose the right design and materials for their new enclosure. 

Kevin and Theresa Dermody have been working hard to enhance Florida Fence’s long tradition of excellence.  Since they purchased the company six months ago the Dermody’s have been committing their time to meeting their customers and learning what has made Florida Fence a great company; and learning what they can do to make it even better!

Florida Fence meets the Federal and State requirements for a Women’s Business Enterprise.

Visit the Florida Fence website:  www.floridafence.biz.

 

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Manatee Chamber Technology Committee Workshop

Date posted: May 22, 2012

Success with Google Pay Per Click and Analytics

Google and their strategic partners have been pushing Pay Per Click campaigns to small businesses.  But how effective is Pay Per Click?  Is it worth spending your budget on it?  What is a Quality Score?  How do you measure success?  Troy Newport, Business Development Director at Webtivity Design Solutions will present a workshop to answer all those questions and more!

Learn how to make your Google AdWords campaign successful by:

  • researching your target keywords
  • writing effective ads
  • designing effective Landing Pages
  • tracking and improving Quality Scores
  • using Google Analytics
  • determining overall campaign effectiveness


Where:

Manatee Chamber Lakewood Ranch Office
McClure Center 4215 Concept Court
(map it)

When:
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
8am – 10am (networking and Q/A from 10am – 11am)

How:
Register Now on the Manatee Chamber website

or Download the PDF Flyer:
Success with Google Pay Per Click and Analytics

See you there!

 

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Webtivity’s New Address

Date posted: May 18, 2012

New Location Update

You are likely aware we have been in the process of getting our new home ready to move in.  The journey has been a long and interesting one!  But our new location is in place and the build-out will be complete for an early June move-in.

You can begin sending mail to the new address immediately; we will not be fully moved in until June 4th:
Webtivity Design Solutions
101 Riverfront Boulevard
Suite 650
Bradenton, FL 34205

(map it)

We are extremely excited to be relocating into the middle of the downtown Riverwalk area .  The investment in this area and potential for growth in Manatee County is tremendous and we are proud to be a part of our community.  Besides the new bike trails, sand volleyball courts, piers, boat launches and YachtSea Grill, Riverwalk will also be hosting the 1st annual Bradenton Blues Festival on December 1st, 2012.

Thank you for your continued business and we look forward to seeing you at our new location!

 

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Your Online Reputation

Date posted: May 16, 2012

Managing Your Online Reviews

The other night I was watching an episode of Hotel Impossible on the Travel Channel (one of my few Reality Show guilty pleasures) and host Anthony Melchiorri confronted the hotel’s Marketing Director for answering negative online reviews sarcastically.  The Marketing Director’s response was that he was trying to bring some levity to the situation and thought that a sense of humor would help.  Needless to say, Anthony was not happy.

Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other popular review sites started allowing business owners the ability to retort poor reviews (or acknowledge the good ones) over the past few years.  This has been both a blessing and a great Achilles’ heel for business owners.  Some business owners and CEO’s should step away from the keyboard.  Others have the constraint and wisdom to follow basic best practices when managing online reviews:

1) Don’t get bad reviews in the first place
No company is perfect.  Ultimately a day will come when a customer will be angry or disappointed enough about something you or one of your employees did to post a negative review about you online.  But if you provide quality products/services and you have a strong customer service model you should be able to mitigate bad reviews from the start.  When the inevitable happens and a displeased customer complains, listen to your customer and try to make amends.  Sometimes turning around a bad situation well can turn a displeased customer into a raving fan of your company.

2) Praise the positive reviews
When people say nice things about your company take time to reply and thank them for their business.  This encourages repeat business and also shows potential customers you are just as loyal to your customers as they are to you.

3) Check the validity of a bad review
If someone does post a bad review there are a few things you can do to check the validity of the review:

  • See how many other reviews the person has done.  If this is the only post they’ve ever done and their account is brand new, it may be reason to give you pause.  Or, it could be they were so pissed they decided to create an account just so they could express their displeasure online!
  • If they do have other reviews, do they go around bashing a bunch of other companies in your same industry?  Or do they throw around technical lingo that only an industry insider would know?  If so it could be a sign the person is a competitor.
  • If you truly feel the review is not legitimate you can flag it and request removal.  Don’t hold your breath though.  It may be even wiser to write a short  reply stating you are sorry they had a bad experience, and invite them to call you directly to discuss it so you can immediately address their concerns.

4) To reply or not to reply
Not every bad review may warrant a response.  Use your judgement:

  • Some reviews are so blatantly fake that other people reading the review can see right through it.  Sure, it hurts to have your rating reduced illegitimately, but that should motivate you to encourage your customers to do even more reviews to diminish it and push it down.
  • You may have offered an amiable solution and your dissatisfied customer didn’t feel your offer was good enough. If you know in your heart you did your best to mend the situation you may want to reply you are sorry about their dissatisfaction and mention you tried your best to make the situation better and you  are sorry they did not agree with your solution.  If the situation caused you to change internal processes to insure it doesn’t happen again, mention that too.  No need to go into any sort of detail, just keep your remarks broad and non-specific.
  • In some situations you may know exactly who wrote the review, and you may know that to respond will begin an all-out barrage of nastiness from your dissatisfied customer.  Leave sleeping dogs lie.
  • Sometimes your loyal customers will come to your rescue for you, especially if a review seems to be outlandish or fake.  This can be the most powerful retort you can get.

Reviews are playing a much heavier role in your search engine optimization as Google continues their shift toward Local Search.  Reviews are easily accessible on mobile devices when people are searching for you online.  Reviews sometimes can make or break a business.  So you should encourage your customers to review you online and be prepared to monitor and respond when appropriate to your reviews.  Be prepared for good and bad reviews alike. But remember: how you handle bad reviews can often go a long way to define your company.

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Heartbreak Hotline Ready To Listen

Date posted: May 9, 2012
New Website Launched by Webtivity Designs

In a world full of complicated relationships, job stress and financial stress, sometimes we just need to talk to someone.  But talking to friends or family can sometimes be risky.  We risk being judged, or having those words “I told you so” thrown at us.  Heartbreak Hotline is a new web-based business that offers a trained, non-judgmental ear “when you just need to talk”.

Heartbreak Hotline operates 24 hours a day / 7 days a week and connects callers to experienced coaches who will listen with empathy and understanding for any range of problems.  Besides the phone service Heartbreak Hotline will actively blog and participate in social media, offering insight and commentary on celebrity relationship news and other high profile national conversations.

When asked about the inspiration for her new venture, Heartbreak Hotline President Leslie Joyce said, “In an age where we are so connected by the digital world, there are many out there who feel isolated and alone.  We tweet, text and Facebook each other all day long, but it seems like we don’t have real personal connections any longer.  My hope is this will be a resource for men and women of any age who just need an anonymous outlet to get some things off their chest and get a fresh perspective.”

You can find Heartbreak Hotline online at www.heartbreakhotline.com.

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Google Over-Optimization Penalty Hits

Date posted: April 26, 2012

3% of Searches Affected

The Google Search Blog has confirmed the “over-optimization” penalty has been factored into the Google search algorithm and made live.  They are calling it the “webspam algorithm update”.  Google estimates these latest changes will affect approximately 3.1% of English websites.  In comparison, their initial Panda update in February, 2011 affected over 12% of search results.

So what constitutes “over-optimization”?  Simply put, all the things we’ve been telling you not to engage in!

Keyword Stuffing
This is the practice of stuffing a bunch of keywords into your website content and Meta tags.  You’ve likely come across a website that the text was almost nonsensical because they kept repeating the same word or phrase incessantly.   Or maybe you were reading through a paragraph and a completely unrelated phrase was injected in the middle of the content and linked to another website.  These are the types of tactics Google is attacking with this update.

Text Spinning
For those who don’t want to take the time writing unique, engaging content for their websites or blogs, they use “text spinning” software.  Basically you copy and paste a blog post or web page content into the software, and it “spins” it and tries to output a rewritten version of that content.  Some of the programs work pretty well, but if you read the content closely there are idiosyncrasies in grammar you will come across.  It is those idiosyncrasies Google is looking to identify.

As is almost always the case in technology, taking shortcuts may show short-term benefits but almost always result in long-term disappointments.  The 3% of search results that have been impacted by the latest changes by Google probably wish they had spent all their resources doing all the things Google tells you, because now they are going to be forced to!

 

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The Elusive Google AdWords ‘Quality Score’

Date posted: April 12, 2012

What is it and How Does it Impact Me?

Google is a money-making machine, and the bulk of their annual revenue comes from their advertising channel.  You’ve probably gotten a postcard, email or phone call from Google encouraging you to use AdWords (also called PayPerClick) to advertise your business online.  Google’s ad revenue increased from $28 billion in 2010 to $36 billion (unaudited) in 2011.  No wonder they’ve been pushing it so hard!

Google also has been pushing the idea that business owners can run their own campaigns.  And they’re banking on you doing just that.

Many of our clients who come to us for help with their AdWords campaigns have been running their own campaigns for at least a year.  Once we have optimized their campaign and their ads, on average we have reduced their monthly Google ad spend between 20-30%.  On some campaigns we’ve reduced Google ad spend 50% or more!  Imagine what those businesses could have done with all that extra money they paid to Google over that years’ time.  And imagine how much less money Google would have made last year if everyone optimized their campaigns!

Beyond simply reducing Google ad spend, you should focus on improving Quality Scores for the campaign.  This ultimately leads to improved ad positions, better click-through rates and increased conversions.  You won’t hear Google’s sales force (or phone book companies pushing AdWords) focusing on improving conversions.  Why?  Because it’s hard work, and it is in their best interest for you to run under-performing ads.  The more you increase your ad spend, the more Google and their media-buying partners will make.

So how do Quality Scores affect you?  Here is a snippet provided by Google in their AdWords Help Center:

•    Ad auction eligibility: Higher Quality Scores make it easier and cheaper for a keyword to enter the ad auction.
•    Your keyword’s actual cost-per-click (CPC): Higher Quality Scores lead to lower CPCs. That means you pay less per click when your keyword has a higher Quality Score.
•    Your keyword’s first page bid estimate: Higher Quality Scores lead to lower first page bid estimates. That means it’s easier for your ad to show on the first page of search results when your keyword has a higher Quality Score.
•    Your keyword’s top of page bid estimate: Higher Quality Scores lead to lower top of page bid estimates. That means it’s easier for your ad to show towards the top of the page when your keyword has a higher Quality Score.
•    Ad position: Higher Quality Scores lead to higher ad positions. That means your ad can show up higher on the page when your keyword has a higher Quality Score.

So as you can see it is in your best interest to pay attention to constantly improving your campaign and Quality Scores.  And even though they are an important factor, it isn’t all that easy to find your Quality Scores in your AdWords administration panel.  Many people launch their AdWords and let it run on auto-pilot.  If you allow that to happen you are spending more money than you need to on your campaign, and it will be much less effective.

 

 

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Junk Mail Saves the Day for USPS

Date posted: March 23, 2012

But an app can help consumers cut down on the waste

You may have heard the USPS is turning to junk mail to try to turn around their several billion dollar budget deficit.   A full 59% of all mail is already junk mail, and that accounts for almost 90 billion pieces of mail per year!  Every week I shake my head at the immense waste as I grab the pile of flyers and solicitations that I’m not interested in and pick through everything to make sure something important isn’t mixed in.  (Every once in a while Mommy and Grammy send me a card, so I have to keep an eye out for that!)

For people like me who have taken advantage of online bill pay and online banking, my weekly trip to the mailbox feels more like a trip to take out the trash.  I want to stop it but how can I get removed from those annoying lists?

First is a smartphone app called Paper Karma.  It is a relatively new app that has gotten good reviews.  Download the app to your Android, iPhone or Windows Phone, create an account and within a minute you’re ready to go!  Take a picture of the piece of junk mail you don’t want to receive any longer, and Paper Karma will automatically recognize the mailer, contact them on your behalf and have you removed from their mailing list!  Sure it’s not perfect, but if it cuts down on my junk mail by even 25% I’m willing to do it.

For those of you who aren’t app-inclined (or just don’t trust those newfangled phones) there is also a website you can join to help the cause.  Catalog Choice is a not-for-profit group that is responsible for stopping over 19 million pieces of junk mail. When you receive a piece of junk mail go to their website and report the sender and they will request removal on your behalf.  There is a little more manual work involved because you have to search for the companies from which you received the junk mail (which can be a little confusing from time to time) but this is also an effective way to reduce paper waste.

So either get ready for a renewed onslaught of junk mail in a mailbox near you, or take advantage of these resources to help you cut down on wasteful advertising practices.  If they get the message loud and clear enough, perhaps they will turn their energy to a “green” form of marketing called internet marketing!

 

 

 

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No Insurance Required!

Date posted: March 15, 2012

Value Proposition at its Worst

A colleague told me a funny and unbelievable story that sparked today’s blog post.  While he was leaving the office the other day he noticed a man standing outside the office next door.  Apparently the man was estimating how much it would cost to move their office to a new location.  As my colleague was walking to his car, the man yelled across the parking lot, “Hey, if you need to move I’m your guy!  I don’t carry insurance so I’m cheaper than everyone else!!”

I’m sure on some strange, distant planet that could be considered a value proposition statement.  I certainly don’t live on that world, and I think smart Earthlings would probably run in the other direction too.  How do you position yourself against your competitors?

Answering the question of what makes you better than your competitors should be pretty easy for business owners, CEO’s and top producers.  When going through the discovery process with many of our clients I sometimes find it more difficult than it should be to uncover strong value proposition.  Sometimes I’m met with negative tirades against competitors.  Most often I get the benign, “we will beat anyone else’s prices.”

Bashing your competitors makes you look petty.  And most agree that positioning yourself as “the cheapest in town” typically gets you a lot of customers who aren’t loyal to your company and/or don’t value what you do.

Having the ability to explain tangible and useful benefits to prospective clients is an extremely important ingredient for the success of your business.  To do an effective job you first need to pay attention to how your competitors advertise themselves.  Also, when new clients come to you from a competitor, ask them what your competitor did well.  Ask what made them leave your competitor.  And finally, ask them why they decided to come to your company.

Using this information will help you build your value arsenal and be prepared to knock it out of the park when asked the inevitable question, “Why should I come to you instead of your competitor?”

Here is the final piece that is most often overlooked:  once you have established your value proposition, get it on your website!  I sometimes get the most amazing elevator pitches when talking to new clients, but when I look at their website, none of that information is anywhere to be found!  Packaging your strongest value proposition and building it into strategic areas of your website will insure much better conversion rates.

Remember, getting someone to your website is only the first step—if they don’t contact you (or, convert) as a result of visiting your website you’ve just lost an important lead!

Learn more about Conversion Rate Optimization.

 

 

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Being Married to Your Brand

Date posted: February 29, 2012

Can You Change?

We often have well-established companies tell us they hate their logo or their branding.  (That’s right… I’m using the word hate here.)  They tell us when they started the company they didn’t put enough effort toward their branding, identity or their online marketing.  Now with hindsight in their favor they see the mistakes they made and want to fix it!  But how easy is it to change your company’s image once the marketplace gets to know you?

Freshening your branding is one thing.  That is a healthy part of managing any company’s identity.  Times change, you change, standards change. Think of all the world’s biggest brands.  Over the years they religiously refresh their branding to keep from looking stodgy or outdated.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan on making some major changes:

1)  Develop a regimented plan
Often companies delay things that are perceived as painful until the time comes where someone in the organization gets fed up and yells, “Just Get It Done!!”  When it comes to your company’s identity nothing could be worse.  There is some background work that needs to be done first.

2) How do people view you?
Before you know where to take your branding, you first need to understand how people perceive you.  Talk to long-time clients and ask them why they’ve continued to do business with you.  Talk to new clients and ask them why they decided to work with you.  Through your research you may find you don’t like the way people perceive your company. If that’s the case you may need to make a more substantial overhaul to your company’s brand.  Also remember you have to remove your personal tastes and likes from the equation.  I know this is hard to swallow, but your tastes may be bad for your brand.

3) Research the competition
What are your competitors doing well?  What aren’t they doing well?  See if there is a niche you can fill where your competitors are lacking.  You may find there is a whole new customer base out there you want to target.

4) Buy-in
As with any plan, if you don’t have 110% buy-in from everyone in your company you’re starting down a bumpy road.  Be sure everyone from the top down understands why you’re making the change, your vision for the future of the company, and how this is an integral part of accomplishing that vision.

5) The Relaunch
Prepare people for the “new you”.  Help them understand why you’re going through this transformation.  Tell them why it’s in their best interest.  If you change completely and suddenly without notice, your customers and the general public may get confused.  And sometimes consumers get downright angry!  As some brands have found out.

If you’re going to make a major change to your branding, do your research and make a smart transition.  If you don’t, you risk making these changes at your peril. (SyFy anyone?)

 

 

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Beating High Gas Prices

Date posted: February 22, 2012

Using Technology to Help Your Wallet

In case you haven’t noticed or read the headlines recently, gas prices are on the rise.  You may have your favorite local gas station to get your gas, but are you getting ripped off?  We’ve all heard stories about gas stations gouging their customers when the wind blows in the wrong direction.  So how do we consumers make better choices and save our hard earned money?  Yes, there is an app for that!Gas Buddy

While there are many gas apps out there I personally use the free Gas Buddy (www.gasbuddy.com) app.  With this app you can either type in the zip code of where you want to search, or allow your phone’s GPS to automatically search for gas stations closest to your location.  The results display the price of Regular, Midgrade, Premium and Diesel fuel at each station, their addresses, and the distance of each station from your location.  With the click of a button you can get directions to the station using your phone’s navigation application.

The Gas Buddy app allows users to correct pricing if you arrive at the station and the pricing isn’t correct.  They state on the Gas Buddy website that they automatically purge the last reported pricing after 72 hours to try to keep pricing as accurate as possible.  So while these types of apps aren’t always absolutely perfect, they can be used as a great guide to help you save some cash when you need to fill your hungry gas tank.

So give it a try and put the power of consumerism back in your hands!

 

 

 

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Manatee Chamber Technology Committee Workshop

Date posted: January 24, 2012

Growing Revenue by Selling Online

Ecommerce is expected to grow to a $300 billion industry in the U.S. by 2015 according to Forrester Research.  Don’t you want a piece of that sweet juicy pie?  Troy Newport, Business Development Director at Webtivity Design Solutions, and Dennis Hassell, Regional Consultant at NXGEN Payment Services will co-present a workshop on ecommerce.  The workshop will cover the basics of selling online, making secure decisions for your business and effective marketing of your powerful revenue generator.

Where:
Manatee Chamber Lakewood Ranch Office

McClure Center 4215 Concept Court
(map it)

When:
Thursday, February 9, 2012

8:00am – 11:00am

How:
Register Now on the Manatee Chamber website

or Download the PDF Flyer:
Growing Revenue by Selling Online


See you there!

 

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2nd Annual Conley Buick GMC Southern State Bull Riding Finals

Date posted: January 19, 2012

Benefits the Manatee County 4H Club

The Conley Buick GMC SSBR Bull Riding Finals website has been launched! You can now purchase your tickets online at the official Conley Buick GMC SSBR Finals website: www.conleyssbrfinals.com

The 30 top bull riders in the country will be competing for the 2011 Championship Buckle and thousand of dollars in prize money.  Come out and join the fun!

WHERE:
Manatee County Fair Grounds – Palmetto, FL 
map it

WHEN:
Friday February 10: Gates open at 5pm
Rodeo starts at 7:00pm

Saturday February 11: Gates open at 3pm
Rodeo starts at 7:00pm
(Music by Bulls Eye Ride from 3:30pm until 6:30pm)

ORDER TICKETS ONLINE

 

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Waxpressions Ecommerce Website Launched

Date posted: January 18, 2012

Unique Soy Candles With A Message

When Waxpressions Candle Co. came to Webtivity Designs they had spent a fair amount of money having a website developed overseas.  But it didn’t capture the look and feel they were trying to achieve so they were seeking a company to help them improve their design.  Once we evaluated their website we became the unfortunate bearer of bad news: the website was not PCI Compliant and could not be used for selling their products online.  That means customers would have been submitting their credit card information in an unencrypted fashion and would have put Waxpressions Candle Co. at significant risk for large fines from credit card companies if credit card data had been compromised.

(PCI Security Standards are developed by an independent body that was created by the major payment card companies.  They recommend best practice methods of handling customer credit card data and promote information security.  You can read more about PCI Standards here: www.pcisecuritystandards.org)

Unfortunately these stories are all too common in our industry.  Even worse in this case, since the website was developed overseas there was little recourse but to start anew.  However the bright side of this story is that Jill Keene, owner of Waxpressions Candle Co., has great products, unmatched energy and vigor, and was ready to do things right.

The outcome is a classy, professional website that promotes her three soy candle lines:  Radicandles, Politicandles, and the core Waxpressions line.  These unique 100% American-farmed soy candles are hand-poured and come with a variety of messages on the label to fit any occasion.  You can find more traditional Birthday and Get Well messages, or choose from a selection of more fun and racy messages in the Radicandle line.  For the political junkies in your life you can find a Politicandle with a message that will fit any political persuasion.

And of course most importantly, the website meets PCI Security standards to protect all the hard work Jill and her sister Jessica have put into their growing venture.

Now what are you waiting for?  Go purchase some candles from Waxpressions!
www.waxpressions.com

 

 

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Your Success = Our Success

Date posted: December 21, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Our clients trust us with their internet marketing, a task we take with great pride and the sober understanding that they are relying on us to help them grow their businesses in a tough climate.  There is a lot of noise in our industry, and our approach isn’t about taking shortcuts and trying to game the search engines.  Our approach is about doing things right, so instead of wasting resources playing a constant cat-and-mouse game with the search engines we focus on helping our clients build a growing portfolio of business.

As part of our annual internal review we analyzed all of the SEO campaigns we managed through 2011.  Part of our analysis revealed that our SEO clients during their peak business times saw an average 280% increase in non-paid search traffic (in other words, does not include AdWords traffic for those who also have PayPerClick campaigns).  Perhaps even more importantly, website traffic increased and was more stable during times that are historically considered off-season in their respective industries.  We’re all familiar with the seasonal nature of many businesses in the local market, so being able to stabilize those traditionally down times can be the difference between a business that thrives versus a business stuck in survival mode.

We receive calls all the time from business owners who are transitioning their marketing budgets from phone book and other forms of traditional advertising to internet marketing.  And we get calls all the time from businesses who have been let down by their internet marketing consultants.  If you’re one of those people looking for more and you’re ready to make the investment necessary to be successful, we would love to fill that void for your company.  Hand in hand, we can grow together in 2012!

Contact us for more information.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to All!


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Webtivity Designs Enters Fourth Year of Partnership With South Florida Museum

Date posted: December 8, 2011

Building on three successful years of partnership, the South Florida Museum and Webtivity Design Solutions have renewed their annual Corporate Partnership agreement.

The partnership began in 2008 when Webtivity tackled the difficult task of pulling together the major aspects of the nonprofit organization—a multitude of museum galleries, the Bishop Planetarium Theater and Parker Manatee Aquarium paired with many programs and special exhibits—into a cohesive and easy-to-navigate website design. The redesigned website originally launched in 2008 and Webtivity has created and managed the overall development, design, hosting and maintenance ever since.  Today, Webtivity remains the Museum’s digital marketing company.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the creative Webtivity team,” said Jamie Jalwan, the Museum’s special events and marketing manager. “Having their internet marketing expertise and in-depth knowledge of ever-changing technology platforms is increasingly vital in today’s marketplace. We are thankful to have Webtivity as a partner.”

Digital marketing projects scheduled for 2012 include the launch of a new South Florida Museum mobile site, incorporation of QR codes in Museum special projects and dynamic enhancements to the main website.

About The South Florida Museum
The South Florida Museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, featuring engaging exhibits as well as educational programs which interpret the scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world and our universe. The facility includes the all-digital Bishop Planetarium Theater and Parker Manatee Aquarium which is home to Snooty™, the oldest known manatee in the world. The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th Street West in downtown Bradenton.

For more information, please call 941-746-4131 or visit www.southfloridamuseum.org.

[Original Press Release by Jamie Jalwan, Special Events and Marketing Manager at South Florida Museum]

Help support the museum by making a donation: click here

 


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It’s Going to Snow on Anna Maria Island!

Date posted: November 30, 2011

The Bridge Street Merchants Association presents Three Events In One:  Holiday Open House Walk About, Christmas on Bridge Street and The Cortez Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade

Bridge Street will be changed from its normal tropical paradise into a Winter Wonderland on Saturday, December 17.  Snow flakes, a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday music and performances, special sales at the shops, holiday treats, gift basket and wreath giveaways, fabulous gift ideas and a lighted boat parade are all planned to make the season merry and bright.

The Bridge Street Merchants Association, a not for profit organization, will be hosting an all day holiday celebration on Saturday, December 17, on Historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island. There are actually three events within one.

The first is the Holiday Open House Walk About which will be going on all day beginning at 9:00 am. The Bridge Street Shops will offer special pricing on their merchandise and services. Many shops will have treats available for shoppers as they peruse through the wide variety of boutiques and stores available on Bridge Street.

The day will continue with Christmas on Bridge Street from 3 pm – 7 pm. The Christmas on Bridge Street event includes a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday music by DJ Tom Barrons, a special holiday performance by Rowlett Magnet Elementary drama and choir students and caroling by area students. Fabulous gift baskets containing resort stays, dinner certificates, jewelry, spa services, shopping gift certificates, certificates for area attractions and activities, beautifully decorated holiday wreaths and much more will be raffled to benefit the Manatee County Food Bank and the Roser Memorial Community Church Food Bank. It is even going to snow on Bridge Street making it a true winter wonderland – Florida style. A special Children’s Gift Bazaar will also take place where area school kids will sell handmade crafts, baked goods and holiday items. Canned food items and Toys for Tots will be collected at the event.

The event will end with the Cortez Yacht Club Lighted Boat parade shortly after dusk. Sponsors at the time of this press release include the AMI Sun Newspaper, the Bradenton Herald, Bright House Networks, METV and Miller Electric.

or contact:

Caryn Hodge
chodge@chilesgroup.com
941-778-8705

[Press Release by Caryn Hodge and the Bridge Street Merchants Association]

 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Webtivity!

Date posted: November 23, 2011

A Big Thank You

We are thankful for all our loyal clients–you truly are the best in the world, and we sincerely appreciate your business.  From our families to yours, we wish you a tremendous Turkey Day with all the trimmings!!

– The Webtivity Team

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Let the Shopping Begin!

Date posted: November 22, 2011

Helpful Tips for Online Shopping

We see the horror stories on the news every holiday season– people getting trampled squeezing through the door of their favorite retailer trying to get their hands on one of the few “doorbuster” items that were advertised to draw the crowd.  Those stories and experiences may be why Cyber Monday saw a whopping 20% increase in 2010 and ecommerce overall has been growing leaps and bounds.

Whether you’re a newbie to online shopping or not, below is a list of things to keep in mind while shopping online for that perfect gift:

1)  Basic Online Security
Never submit your credit card information on a website that is not SSL-secured, and never email your credit card information for any reason. When you are on a page that is requesting your login user name and password or credit card information, your web browser should indicate that your connection is encrypted (click screenshot below to see how it should look.)  Also, instead of the web address starting with http: it should start with https: (notice the “s”, which stands for “secure”.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Trust But Verify
Legitimate ecommerce websites often take additional steps to protect their customer’s data by investing in a “trust seal” service such as McAfee Secure, VeriSign and Trustwave.  By subscribing to services such as this, the website must conform to best-practice security standards for PCI Compliance, designed to protect sensitive data.  But simply having those logos on a website does not mean they have a valid subscription to those services. If you click on a trust seal and it does not open a new browser window with verifying information from the trust mark service, the website owner illegally put the logo on their website and you should leave the website immediately (click screenshot below to see how it should work.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Use a Credit Card (not a debit card)
If your credit card data is stolen as a result of making an online purchase, your maximum liability is $50.00, and the credit card company will issue you a new credit card.  If your debit card information is stolen, the bad guys have access to your bank account and can do more damage.  Plus your maximum liability is $500.00.

4) New, Used or Refurbished?
Consumers are often looking for great deals on electronics when purchasing online.  Be aware that many websites (including Amazon) sell new, used and refurbished electronics.  So be sure to read the fine print when looking at your favorite TV, laptop, etc.  If the price seems unusually low, chances are it is a used or refurbished item.  You may make an educated decision to purchase used or refurbished electronics, but make sure you understand their return policies and warranties before pressing that Buy Now button!

5) Restocking Fees
More online retailers are charging restock fees for returned items.  It is a reasonable paradigm, since they have to repackage and put the item back in their inventory for resale.  However, some online retailers have significantly high restock fees (20-30% of the cost of the item) so make sure you read the fine print before purchasing that $5000.00 55″ 3D HDTV.  If it turns out it doesn’t fit through your front door and you have to return it, you could end up paying a $1500.00 restock fee plus shipping to get it back to them.

With these basic tips in mind and practicing safe surfing, you should have a happy holiday shopping season.  Have fun and good luck finding that grand bargain!!

 

 

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2011 Tri-Chamber QR Scavenger Hunt

Date posted: November 21, 2011

Great Prizes, Great Fun!

If you attended the 2011 Tri-Chamber Event hosted by the Manatee, Sarasota and Venice Chambers of Commerce, you may have registered to play the QR Scavenger Hunt.  Attendees with smartphones used their favorite bar code scanner app to scan QR’s placed at all Manatee Chamber booths and around the Convention Center.  Each time a participant scanned a new QR, they were entered into the random drawing that took place at the end of the night.  QR’s located at conference booths were worth 2 entries and QR’s located around the Convention Center were worth 1 entry.  At the end of the night a randomized computer drawing selected the winners.  We got great feedback from the players, and we appreciate all those who participated!

We especially appreciate the gift sponsors for the Scavenger Hunt:

There were over a thousand scans tracked during the 2 hour event and a lot of smiles from those participating, so we hope the QR Scavenger Hunt helped make the Tri-Chamber Event even more successful!

See you at the 2012 event!

 

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The Cost of Cheap

Date posted: October 27, 2011

What’s the trade-off?

Have you ever stopped to wonder how one company can offer a product at a much lower price than another?  As an internet marketing company, we are exposed to many businesses in many industries that operate under many different business models.

As we delve into the discovery process with each of our clients we uncover their core business strategies and how they position themselves against their competitors.  The conversation almost always arrives at a point where our client talks about a competitor whose primary strategy is to undercut everyone on price.  The natural question is, how do they undercut everyone on price?  This is when our clients begin listing all the shortcuts their competitor takes and laments “if only their customers knew….”

Everyone understands that just because you spend more money on something, it doesn’t mean it is a better product or that you get more value out of it.  But if something costs less than normal, what does that imply?

Over the years I have acquired exposure to more industries and niches than you can imagine.  The stories I’ve been told by credible business people about their competitors and the types of shortcuts they take to position themselves as ‘the cheapest’ has made the hair stand up on the back of my neck more than a few times.  It has also made me a much better consumer, because in many cases I know the right questions to ask before hiring a service company or buying a product. 

There are plenty of shortcuts in our industry too.  We are a technical field, after all.  Automation is something that techie people can accomplish with ease.  So if you are shopping around for web development, social media or SEO services and some of the companies you talk to are much lower-priced than the others, you need to investigate why that is the case.

For example, you’ve probably seen all the “build your own website” commercials where you choose a pre-built template and have your website up in a night.  From a marketing standpoint that means your website will not have a unique identity because there are likely thousands of other people out there with the same design you have.  What consumers also don’t understand is that your website is going to be on the same IP address (the unique identifier the search engines use to differentiate your website) with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of other websites.  That means you are starting at a major disadvantage with the search engines from the start.  If one of those other websites are using untoward tactics to get their website to rank high on the search engines, it can impact all the other websites on your IP address.

For social media, it may mean they are setting up automatic feeds to populate your social media channels.  That means they are just regurgitating the same information in your social media channels that exists everywhere else on the web.  Why would people want to get that information from you when they can get it from their normal media channels?  It also positions other people as experts instead of your company.  Why are you spending money on this if it isn’t going to show a maximum return?

Search Engine Optimization is especially notorious for shortcuts and automation.  Everything from software that takes real articles found online and “spins” them into a new article, to programs that crawl the internet looking for unsecured websites, automatically hacks them and installs links to your website.  The problem is that Google is very aware of these tactics and can detect them.  If they see your website participating in these tactics it may get you banned from Google altogether.

So it may not be sexy to talk about the work required to make online marketing truly work for your company.  If you are making short-term decisions based on budget, make sure you are adjusting your expectations and planning to allocate appropriate budget toward your online marketing in the future.  But don’t wait too long, because you can’t afford to short-change your company by not paying attention to your online marketing.

 

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EdgeTech Document Shredding

Date posted: October 21, 2011

Free Community Shred Days

EdgeTech Document Shredding helps businesses minimize risk and maximize security with affordable, on-site document shredding.  In the month of November, EdgeTech is offering a great service for residents of Venice, Nokomis and Sarasota:  Free Community Shred Days!

This service is offered to residents only.  Sorry but no commercial shredding!  Residents can bring up to 5 boxes of paper for free shredding at any of the listed locations.  (Please no plastics, computer hardware or x-rays – read flyers posted below for more details.)

November 9, 2011 | Nokomis-Venice
10:00am – noon:  2520 North Tamiami Trail, Nokomis (map)
(parking lot of Prime Retirement Asset Management)

1:00pm – 3:00pm:  1729 Tamiami Trail, Venice (map)
(parking lot of the Stanley Dean Insurance Agency)

Click here for the flyer (PDF)

November 15, 2011 | Sarasota
10:00 am – noon:  6455 Gateway Avenue, Sarasota (map)
(parking lot of Parsons Insurance Agency/Allstate Insurance – Gateway and Mall Drive)

1:00pm – 3:00pm:  2381 Fruitville Road, Sarasota (map)
(parking lot of Cavanaugh & Co. – corner of Shade Avenue)

Click here for the flyer (PDF)

About EdgeTech Document Shredding
EdgeTech Document Shredding is the premier commercial paper shredding service in the central and south Florida regions. Christine Watler, the founder of EdgeTech, leads the company in a relentless pursuit of secure document management strategies. Her personal quest for flawless processes, dedication to customer service, and devotion to recycling has resulted in a commercial onsite document shredding company that outshines the competition.

Learn more about EdgeTech Document Shredding:
www.edgetechdocs.com

 

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Pay Per Click 101

Date posted: October 18, 2011

Traffic vs. Conversions
(originally posted on the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Blog)

Over the past few years Google AdWords (also called Pay-Per-Click or PPC) has started getting a bad name because of the way some internet marketers and large media companies have misguided their customers.  If someone is running a PPC campaign for you and the primary success metric they track for you is “traffic”, then your campaign is doomed from the start.  The primary success metric you should be tracking is “conversions”.  That is a much more difficult result to achieve, which is why many don’t focus on it.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you look at PPC as an option for marketing your business online:

Landing Pages
When someone clicks on your PPC ad, you typically should not take them directly to your main website because it probably is not designed to receive traffic from a PPC ad.  Research shows that people who click on PPC ads are much more conversion-oriented, which means they are ready to make a purchase or complete an action.  So instead of taking people to your website, you should take them to a Landing Page that is specially designed to successfully convert visitors in some way that you can track: clicking a button to “Buy Now”; submitting information through a contact form; calling a phone # you can track internally; etc.

Ad Placement
Your PPC ad will appear higher than your competitors if you are willing to pay more Per-Click than they are.  The inherent problem with this model is if your competitors are running campaigns that aren’t optimized properly they may be artificially inflating the Cost-Per-Click for everyone competing for the same words and phrases.  Increasing your Quality Scores can help mitigate the impact of competing against poor campaigns.

Quality Scores
This is often something business owners are unaware of.  Google assigns Quality Scores to your PPC campaign based on the quality of your ads, the quality and substance of your Landing Pages, how long people are staying on your Landing Pages and whether or not they are converting.  If you have better Quality Scores than the other ads you are competing against, you will pay less than your competitors every time someone clicks on your ad—even though your ads are positioned above your competitors.

Return On Investment
If it costs you $5.00 every time someone clicks on your PPC ad, and you understand that average Conversion Rate for a PPC campaign is 10-15% (it varies from industry to industry) and you charge $15.00 for your product, you can quickly see the math doesn’t add up and a PPC campaign may not be the answer for you.  If your internet marketing team isn’t going through this exercise with you be prepared to spend a lot of money and not get any ROI.

It’s easy to throw a bunch of money at PPC and get traffic to your Landing Pages, but if that traffic isn’t targeted (i.e., they aren’t qualified leads) you are spending money attracting people to your Landing Pages who really aren’t interested in your product or service.  High traffic and no conversions means you are fighting an uphill battle.  Your business can’t afford to run a campaign this way.

 

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Remarketing With PPC

Date posted:

Leveraging Google’s Display Network

Ecommerce has been one of the bright spots in our bad economy, growing at a rate of 12.6% in 2010.  It can be a great way for businesses to stabilize revenue during traditionally slow times.  But ecommerce website owners are often at the mercy of an online marketing consultant who doesn’t understand how to truly help them stand out in a crowded online world. 

Many can guess the basics of what you need to be successful with ecommerce:  well-designed PCI-Compliant website; feature-rich shopping cart; Analytics tracking and analysis; Search Engine Optimization; and yes, Pay-Per-Click (PPC).  Even though PPC has started getting a bad rap because of the way some internet marketing companies and large media companies run campaigns for their clients, it is a tool that should be examined for your internet marketing if leveraged properly.

Besides the traditional text ads that display on a Google results page, you can also create banner ads that appear on Google’s display network.  That means your ads will be shown across all Google properties and their partners’ websites.  You may have seen this in action but didn’t realize what was happening.

Have you ever visited a website (let’s say Apple.com for example) and then went to another website and saw an ad from Apple?

Strange coincidence, right?  Wrong.

When you visited Apple’s website, a “cookie” was dropped on your web browser, and when you arrived on CNN.com, it triggered an Apple ad for you because you were just on their website!  You may have heard the mantra that it takes people about 10 or so exposures to your company before they purchase from you, so this type of remarketing can be extremely effective if done properly.

Conversely, if someone is running your campaign who is not seasoned with advanced PPC tactics, it can be very easy to burn through budget needlessly.  If you explore this option for your company make sure you are working with someone you can trust!

 

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The Seasonal Rollercoaster

Date posted: October 5, 2011

Does It Have to be Such a Wild Ride?

In last week’s blog post I talked about the wider adoption of ecommerce and how rapidly it has grown over the past few years.  This week I would like to explore the topic further.

Anyone familiar with our market has heard people talk about “season”, which is when tourists, snowbirds and spring breakers flock to our beautiful corner of the world.   I remember back in the good old days when some business owners looked forward to the slow season so they could take long vacations and enjoy having extra spare time to pursue hobbies.  I haven’t heard this sentiment as much over the past few years.

Instead I hear concern about whether “season” will be good enough to sustain businesses through the slow months.  Finding a way to stabilize revenue can be quite a challenge in a state where tourism is such a crucial part of our economic livelihood.  But many businesses don’t realize they have the unique ability to stay in touch with their customers even after they’ve returned home: ecommerce.

We have such unique shops and boutiques with distinctive personalities that draw people back to our area year after year.  Some of these businesses can leverage the relationships they build over time and sell their products online to their customers long after they’ve returned home.  Who wouldn’t want to explore the opportunity to stay busy during slow season?  All you need is a trustworthy ecommerce website… and a smart marketing plan.

Besides email marketing, plastering your web address on everything you can think of and shouting from the rooftops about your ecommerce website, there are other tactics you can use to remarket yourself and increase online sales.  Next week I will talk about a great way to stay in front of people using advanced Pay Per Click tactics.

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Planning for the Future

Date posted: September 28, 2011

Ecommerce Growth

Everyone agrees it has been a tough economy, but most people also realize there are bright spots in any bad economy.  One of the bright spots over the past year and a half has been ecommerce.  According to Forrester Research In 2010 ecommerce grew at 12.6%, to a total of $176.2 billion.  Current projections have ecommerce hitting $278.9 billion by 2015.  It is projected 5.5 million consumers shopped online for the first time last year.

Research shows shoppers have started purchasing big ticket items like furniture and appliances online more frequently as people become more comfortable with buying online.  Furthermore, Forrester shows that online commerce now makes up approximately 11% of all retail sales.

Do you own a brick and mortar retail store?  How long will it be before your competitors start selling online and begin building their online business?  Or maybe they’re doing it already.  Building a solid online presence isn’t something that can be done overnight, so you should start planning now.

If you’re going to start selling online, there are some important things to consider before you buy a shopping cart and start developing your website:

1)  Are you purchasing a ‘Hosted’ or ‘Portable’ shopping cart? Hosted means you basically “rent” your shopping cart from the provider.  However if you ever become dissatisfied with your provider you cannot move your shopping cart and website to another hosting company.  Portable means you own the license to the shopping cart and you can move your entire website and shopping cart to another provider if desired.  This provides you with the most flexibility and control, which is what we recommend.

2)  Do you have other software your shopping cart needs to communicate with? If you are going to use inventory management software, Point of Sale software or accounting software, you need to make sure your shopping cart will communicate with those programs.  Otherwise you will be managing two sets of inventory and accounting which harms productivity and profitability.

3)  Is your shopping cart PCI Compliant? If your shopping cart is not PCI Compliant and your shopping cart is not properly configured and protected, you are opening yourself to significant risk.   Credit card companies can levy tens of thousands of dollars worth of fines if your customers’ credit card data is stolen.

4)  What features does your shopping cart need? If you want to offer gift wrapping and the ability for customers to provide a personalized message, and your shopping cart does not offer that feature, it is probable that feature cannot be added in the future.  That means you will need to have an entirely new shopping cart developed.

Ecommerce can be a profitable venture for your company, and can help position your company for future growth as more consumers purchase online (and now also through mobile devices.)  But if customers don’t trust making purchases on your website because it looks amateurish or they do not feel safe submitting their credit card information on your website you won’t get your return on investment!

 

 

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Selling on Social Media

Date posted: September 21, 2011

STOP SHOUTING AT ME!!!!!

Recently I was a guest speaker for the Suncoast Technology Forum, speaking on the topic of social media marketing.  During my presentation I asked for some feedback from the audience regarding their experiences with LinkedIn and my fears seem to be confirmed.

I have grown accustomed to people misguidedly using Facebook to shout !!CAPITAL-LETTERED!! sales messages at me (and have grown accustomed to moving them out of my News Feed or unfriending them altogether so I don’t have to hear from them anymore.)   But because of its audience and etiquette, LinkedIn has traditionally been a place relatively clear of those annoying tactics.  However, it seems like LinkedIn is being infiltrated by the same band of misguided souls.

To help provide some guidance to those who somehow think they are effectively representing their products and services, here are a few examples of communications I have seen and a suggested improvement to their tactics:

Tactic:
“I just sold a $1.5 MILLION dollar home!!  Now I can pay off my Mercedes!!!! ”

Suggestion:
“Congratulations to the Jones family on their beautiful new home!”

Reasoning:
Optics are extremely important.  Many realtors “friend” potential clients on Facebook.  Do you think the realtor who posted the message above will get repeat business from their client?  It appears as though they didn’t care about putting their client in the home of their dreams, just making a big sale for their own personal gain.Tactic:
“FISHING CHARTERS ONLY $55!!!  GUARANTEED YOU WILL CATCH LOTS OF FISH!!!!”

Suggestion:
“Gag grouper season opened today – read my latest blog post to make sure you catch your limit!”

Reasoning:
By using a blog you can educate your audience and provide useful tips and tricks.  And you get the benefit of driving traffic to your website by linking these “teasers” to your blog.  People who are interested in fishing will go read this blog post.  But no one likes being yelled at.

As mentioned above, different social media channels have different styles of etiquette.  Using rapid hard sales messages will get you unfriended in Facebook and LinkedIn, and once you lose your audience it may be impossible to get them back.  Social media is most successful when it is a two-way conversation, and you and your audience are sharing information and ideas.  SO PUT DOWN THE MEGAPHONE BEFORE YOU GET HURT!!!!

 

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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

Date posted: August 25, 2011

Increased Smartphone Penetration Causes Mobile Browsing to Skyrocket

If you’re like 100 million other Americans, you use your smartphone to browse the internet each month.  Whether looking for a phone #, office location, or doing online banking, mobile surfing will continue growing in leaps and bounds.  What does your website look like on a mobile device?

Think about your own internet surfing habits: if you go to a website and it’s hard to find what you’re looking for, or it doesn’t display properly on your computer, what do you do?  You leave and find another website that conveniently serves the information you’re looking for.  This is especially true in the mobile environment.  People surfing on their phones (or tablets, or iPads)  are typically on the go, and especially pressed for time.  They aren’t in a mood to deal with your non-optimized-for-mobile-device website.

When someone arrives, you want your website to recognize if they are arriving via a mobile device.  If so they should automatically be directed to a special website that is designed to display well on a smaller screen.  Technologies such as Flash and JavaScript which are commonly used on websites cannot work on many mobile devices, so your main website may not display or function properly.

For example, our main company website has large photos to better promote our work and our messaging.  It also uses technology that does not translate well to a mobile device.  As a result, if someone arrives at our website on a mobile device, this is the website to which they are automatically directed:  http://m.webtivitydesigns.com.  Sure, it looks funny on your desktop computer.  But it loads super-fast and is easy to navigate on a mobile phone.  People can easily call or email us, or obtain directions to our office.  If they are inclined they can read more about us and even visit our full website if they choose.

The investment for a mobile website is a small one.  Remember, you don’t have to translate every page of your main website into a mobile site; just give mobile visitors a few pages of the most important information they need in order to do business with you.  With such a simple deployment, you open your company to those 100 million people who surf the internet on their mobile devices each month.  And don’t forget: people who adopt and use technology tend to have more disposable income.  Don’t you want to target them?

Learn more about mobile website design.

(Don’t forget — now that you have a mobile website, you can take advantage of QR codes and Microsoft Tags!)

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Suncoast Technology Forum

Date posted: August 24, 2011

Social Media Security and Success

On Thursday, September 8, 2011 Troy Newport of Webtivity Design Solutions will be one of the Featured Speakers at Suncoast Technology Forum’s Quarterly IT-Educational Seminar.


Where:
Keiser University Auditorium (map)

Date/Time: Thursday, September 8, 2011 from 5:30pm – 8pm

suncoasttechnologyforum.com for event info and membership.

 

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ePIE Business Partnership Awards

Date posted: August 9, 2011

Local Businesses Improving Education

Some mornings it is easier to get out of bed than others.  Like myself when the alarm went off this morning, many probably laid there for a minute or two and thought about the health of financial markets; 401(k)’s; the health of the business they own or are employed by; the future.  It has been a tough few years.  But instead of being a Doubting Thomas, I decided to get out of bed and plow forward with my day.  After all, what else should I do?

Lucky for me my first order of business was to attend the annual Electronic Partners In Education (ePIE) Business Partnership Awards breakfast. When I walked through the door at Freedom Village (who graciously sponsors the event each year)  I must admit I had a bit of a cloud over my head.  However the event left me in great spirits and with a positive attitude.

The star of the show was undoubtedly a bright young lady by the name of Maria Wirries.    During the program Maria took the stage with strong confidence and a voice to match.  Her final number  “New York, New York” has been stuck in my head every since (thanks Maria!)  The Observer did a story about her earlier this year and if you haven’t heard of this talented singer yet, chances are you will!

It is invigorating to see local businesses pull together to volunteer their time for the children in our community.  One of the awards presented each year is named after the late Barry Jones, formerly the Tampa Bay Rays Community Representative.  His wife, obviously emotional while presenting the Barry Jones Business Partner Empowerment Award, eloquently quoted her husband: “You can have a community without a baseball team, but you can’t have a baseball team without a community.”  The pursuit of community was his mantra.  During trying times community is what gets us through.  I needed reminding of that message, and this morning the positive future our children can unlock and the good we can do together was palpable and valuable lessons which I needed reminding.

So instead of my usual habit of eating lunch and reading online marketing blogs, I decided to write a quick blog about my experience this morning.  Congratulations to all who were recognized this morning and especially to the 2011 Partner in Excellence award winner World Design, Inc., an architecture and engineering firm located in Lakewood Ranch.  I hope I was able to convey a small part of the inspiration I got this morning; now I need to go put some of this positive energy to good use!

About ePIE
Electronic Partners In Education (ePIE) is a web-based application custom developed by Webtivity Designs to help easily connect businesses and organizations with schools throughout Manatee County.  The purpose is to initiate partnerships that enhance student learning and promote school involvement in the community.  Want to learn how your business can help the School District of Manatee County?

Register your business today!!

 



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Domain Scams and Scandals

Date posted: August 3, 2011

Protect Your Web Address Like Your Social Security Number!

I have covered this topic in the past, but every so often a client will forward an email to us in a panic thinking their web address is about to expire due to an email or fax they received.  I’m sure you’ve seen these emails before.  They are easy to spot: lots of capital letters; scary phrases like “FINAL NOTICE” in the subject line of the email.  Click the image at right to see is a sample email one of our clients recently forwarded to us.  (Note they are charging $75 for one year!!  If  you manage a domain yourself, a basic domain renewal should only cost between $10-15 annually.)  Unique identifiers have been removed to protect our client… and to prevent this company from sending us a cease and desist letter for exposing their tomfoolery.  If you read the fine print on this “notice”, you will see this solicitor advertises a Yahoo email address to contact them.  This is a huge red flag–legitimate businesses typically do not use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other “free” email accounts.

Here are a few simple tips to keep your domain name safe:

1) Know where your domain is registered!
I can’t believe the number of people who don’t know who their registrar is.  If you don’t know your registrar is Network Solutions (or GoDaddy, etc.) how can you protect yourself when you receive an email from the “Domain Renewers of America” prompting you to renew your web address with them?

2) Purchase Private Domain Registration.
If you manage your own domain and you did not purchase Private Domain Registration, all your account information is public for the world to see.  That includes the home/business address listed on your account, your home/business phone #, your fax #, your cell #, your email address…. any of the information on your profile is public unless you purchased an additional service to protect your privacy.  This is why it so easy for scammers to target you.  If your “WhoIs” information is not private, anyone can see where your domain is registered and when it expires and contact you by email, phone, fax and snail mail.

Not sure if your information is private?  Use any registrar website to search for your web address and see what information is public to the world.  For example, here you can search the GoDaddy website.

3) Practice safe email etiquette.
Even if you receive an email you believe to be legitimate, you should never click a link in an email to go log into an account.  Read the email, and if you believe it is legitimate open your web browser and go to the website and login to see if the message is legitimate or not.  If you’re still not sure, call the customer support # listed on your registrar’s website and ask for assistance.

Once you lose your domain name, it can be very difficult (sometimes impossible) to get it back.  Think about the expense of changing your web address on your business cards, letterhead, email signatures, fleet vehicles, and anywhere else you have it plastered.  Next you will need to notify all your customers, vendors and strategic partners that your email addresses have changed.  Then factor in the fact that all the history and trust you have generated with the search engines will be wiped out and your company will fall off the search engine results.

It’s not difficult or expensive to protect your domain name, so use these preventative tips to protect yourself!

 

 

 

 

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Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance August Executive Briefing

Date posted: August 1, 2011

Search Engines and the Death of the Phone Book

On Wednesday August 17, 2011 Troy Newport of Webtivity Design Solutions will be presenting an informational workshop at the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance August Executive Briefing.

What you can expect to learn:

  • Social Media and how it impacts your rankings
  • Best practices for ranking higher in the search engines
  • Explanation of “Panda updates” from Google and what it means to you
  • Common SEO scams to avoid

Where: Executive Briefing hosted by Keiser University (Auditorium)
Time: 7:30 am -8:00 am Continental Breakfast provided by the Culinary Institute of Keiser University
Program: 8:00 am – 9:00 am

Seating is limited so RSVP early!
Register Here


 

 

 

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Interdisciplinary Approach to Internet Marketing

Date posted: July 27, 2011

How many people does it take to build an effective website?

I frequently find myself having a conversation with potential customers about how many people it takes to develop an effective online marketing solution.  Many seem to have the impression if you know how to repair or network computers, then you must know how to design a website and promote it online.  The training required to be an IT professional is very different from the training for web design.  There are dozens of certifications one can obtain in the IT field and none of them are related to web design or internet marketing.

Since I worked in the healthcare industry and I think more people can relate to that industry, let’s think about it in these terms:  When you go to a hospital to receive care, how many people does it take to care for you during your stay?  Is there one person assigned to you who draws your blood, performs surgery, and takes a CAT scan?  No, individuals from various disciplines perform those separate tasks.  Why?  Partly because they were each trained in their specific areas to insure the best outcomes for each aspect of your care.

The same is true in most industries.  For example a company may offer plumbing, electrical and HVAC repair services, but they don’t send the same technician to work in each of those areas.  Instead they hire technicians who were trained and received certifications in each of those areas.  In our field there are three primary areas of expertise involved with creating an effective website:

  • art/design
  • technical
  • marketing

Sadly many schools offering web design programs don’t offer a comprehensive curriculum which adequately addresses all these areas.  Most schools focus primarily on the design aspect (layouts, colors, etc.)  By necessity they do delve into the technical side, but tend not to spend significant time teaching students about search engine optimization and the more technical aspects of developing a website.  And many schools tend to spend even less time teaching basic marketing principals.

But think about it: your website is a primary marketing vehicle for your business — so if your website does not effectively communicate your marketing message and is not technically developed to current search engine standards, you are likely wasting a lot of time, money and potential.

That is why an interdisciplinary team can produce a much more effective online marketing campaign for your business.  You have the individuals working on your project who specialize in web design; those who specialize in the technical side of search engine optimization, and those who specialize in the marketing.  It is very rare to have all those necessities contained in one individual.

What’s that you say?  You need custom programming for your project?  Well that adds another discipline into the mix!  Programmers are trained completely differently from designers, SEO specialists, and marketers.

Understanding the people who make up our industry, their training and capabilities can make you a much more informed consumer when seeking an online marketing partner.

 

 

 

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AAF Suncoast Business Workshop – July 21st

Date posted: July 18, 2011

Driving Website Traffic with Search Engine Marketing

We are proud to announce James Moore, Internet Marketing Director at Webtivity Design Solutions, will be a guest panelist for The American Advertising Federation (AAF)  on July 21st at the Polo Grill.

Expert panelists will reveal the mysteries of Search Engine Marketing:

  • Understand how search engines rank websites
  • Differentiate between organic and paid search
  • Tips for successful search campaigns

WHERE
Polo Grill and Bar
10670 Boardwalk Loop
Lakewood Ranch, FL

WHEN
11:30am to 1:00pm
Thursday, July 21, 2011

HOW
RSVP with PayPal

Click here to learn more and register for the workshop.

Space is limited!!

 

 

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I’ve Been Framed!

Date posted: July 13, 2011

I had a wonderful surprise today.  Susan Young from I’ve Been Framed! stopped by our office to present us with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Current Small Business of the Year magazine cover and Webtivity Design article beautifully framed.  Believe me the blurry picture I took of it with my cell phone does not do it justice.

To tell you the truth when I was told that someone was here with a framed article, I thought it was going to be like the sales calls I have received since winning the award. To my surprise, Susan wasn’t selling anything.  She just wanted to introduce herself and give us the framed article as a gift for winning 2011 Manatee Small Business of the Year.  What a nice gesture and great introduction!!

Come to find out, Susan is a Master Certified Picture Framer with over 25 years of framing experience.  She can frame just about anything such as sports memorabilia, documents, medals, photos, artwork, needlework, baptism gowns, and even antique guns.  Whether your keepsake has monetary, historic, or sentimental value, you can rest assured that Susan only uses the best materials available for superior protection.  Best part is she brings her showroom to you!

Thanks Susan!  I love it and already have it hung in my office.

I’ve Been Framed!
by Susan Young, MCPF
941-794-6070
susan@framedbysusan.com
www.framedbysusan.com

 

 

 

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Personal Data Safety

Date posted: June 29, 2011

Protect Your Datas!

You may be aware of a number of high profile website hacks over the past few months.  A small group of hackers have wreaked havoc on major websites for entities such as Google, PBS, Bethesda Softworks, Petrobras, AT&T, Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, NATO… the list goes on.  As the internet becomes more intertwined with our daily lives it is important to take a step back and look at potential pitfalls to having our personal information stored out there in cyberspace.

It is almost impossible these days to prevent the storage of your personal information online.  Online banking, online bill pay, online shopping; we place our most valuable information in the hands of major websites.  We assume because they are large, well-known brands that we can let our guard down and trust our personal information is safe.  If we learned any lesson over the past few months, it is that we should be more vigilant.

Is it a Coincidence?

First of all, it’s important to understand that no website is 100% impenetrable from hacking.  It can happen to websites that take extraordinary measures (you noted above the CIA website got hacked, right?)  It is a constant cat and mouse game with hackers, and sometimes the hackers get the cheese.

We also know that technology moves rapidly, and it costs a lot of money to stay ahead of the curve.  From personal experience you may be aware that when times get tough, IT budgets are often one of the first things to get slashed.  Since we’ve been in an economic downturn for a number of years can we surmise that some corporations have cut their IT budgets in an attempt to remain profitable?  Perhaps that’s why we’re starting to see this string of data breaches?  Or maybe it’s just a coincidence and hackers simply got lucky.

What’s the Answer?

I suppose we could cross our fingers and hope Congress passes a meaningful piece of legislation to protect our private information, and then finds a way to efficiently enforce it.  Oh, right, we have an election season coming up in a year and a half… they will likely be too busy acting like a bunch of two-year-olds.  And “cyber security” isn’t sexy enough for news organizations to make money from the coverage, so they will probably be too busy exposing another Weiner or something.

So for now that leaves it up to us.  As consumers we need to stay educated on how to protect ourselves.  If we don’t pay attention and take our own measures to protect our personal information, can we expect others to be more vigilant about it than we?

Password Security

1)  Create secure passwords – a secure password has small and capital letters, numbers and special characters.

2)  Create different passwords for every website – if your data is breached by hackers and posted online, criminals are going to go to popular websites and try to login with the same login credentials.  If you use the same password for Netflix, PayPal, iTunes, Amazon, Verizon, your bank and your email account you’re asking for trouble.

3)   Change your passwords every few months – what’s that you say?  It’s a pain to do that?  You’re right, don’t worry about it.  Changing your passwords every few months is much more painful than a criminal gaining control of your bank account.

4)  Be sure to only share your personal information when absolutely necessary – and never give personal information to someone unless you can confirm their identity.

5)   Never give out your passwords – no website or business should be contacting you by phone or email and asking you for your password.

6)   If you get an email that says “Click Here To Login” do not click the link – instead open your website browser and go directly to their website and login from there.

7)  Be sure to only provide personal information on websites that are SSL-encrypted – that’s the padlock that appears in many popular web browsers.  If there is a problem with the SSL don’t use the website.

8)  Many banking and other critical websites offer free email notifications when certain events occur – tie these notifications to an email address that is received on your phone.

 

Practice safe surfing!!

 

 

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2011 Manatee Small Business of the Year – What it means to Webtivity

Date posted: June 17, 2011

After having been a Manatee Small Business of the Year Finalist in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, we tempered our hopes and maintained a quiet resolve that we would not win again this year.  We would simply continue to work hard, improve, and go after it again next year.  Since we were seated in the very back of the room we whispered to one another that it was confirmation of being passed over yet another year… but to our astonishment when the time came our name was announced.

The walk to the podium was one of the longest walks I’ve ever made, with the stream of emotions that flooded through my being.  The sense of pride, accomplishment, and excitement were so overwhelming. I have presented to much larger audiences without any problems but this was different. This one was unexpected and emotional.

Yet here I am a week later, and I still feel that stream of emotions.  Since we were selected as one of the Small Business of the Year award winners last week we have been inundated with warm congratulatory emails and phone calls.  The spring in my step, the extreme pride I have when I receive yet another congratulatory phone call; it still hasn’t worn off.  I had heard about this feeling from past winners, but “Oh what a feeling” to experience it yourself.

But over the past week time has also found a way to allow the realization to set in the huge responsibility this award carries.  The past winners of this award are synonymous with Manatee County, and while I’m not sure how easy it will be to think about Webtivity in that light, I do know our work has only begun.  So with resolve we must continue doing all the things we have tried to do well over the years and continually improve:

  • Providing a strong customer service model
  • Never making promises we can’t keep
  • Always trying to exceed expectations
  • Maintaining unconditional honesty and ethics
  • Faithfully contributing to the success of our community

Beyond those tenets we have also increased our efforts over the past few years to better educate the public about technology and online marketing through teaching workshops, blogging and social media.  Our industry can be embarrassingly self-destructive and unfortunately many consumers have had tremendously negative experiences with web designers, self-proclaimed SEO experts, and outsourcing calamities.

We often have a high hill to climb when new clients approach us, so we feel education is critical to developing a long-term relationship with our clients and improving the overall climate of our industry.  It sounds like a pretty simple paradigm, but these are apparently foreign concepts to some in our industry.

So our commitment as winners of this prestigious award is to continue to do what brought us to this proud and humbling moment in the history of our 12 year old company, and continually seek ways to improve our company, community and industry.  We appreciate the trust that has been placed in us with this award, eagerly accept the challenges ahead and emphatically congratulate the other 2011 award winners:  Environmental Biotech, LaPensee Plumbing & Pools and United Systems Computer Group.

In closing, I would like to thank our customers for nominating us year after year and for having confidence in us to take that initial plunge. Most of all I would like to thank my team. They are Webtivity. They are the Small Business of the Year. Each one has enormous talent in their area of expertise but what makes them different is their passion for customer satisfaction. They know this passion is what differentiates us in an industry often criticized for lack of customer service. This is not a job to them. This is their company. Their talent, passion, and commitment is what makes me most proud! [still choking me up]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Custom Carts Website Project

Date posted: June 3, 2011

Designing an Effective Website

I had the pleasure of working with the Custom Carts team on refreshing their branding and re-design of their website.  Before the Initial Project Conference at our office, I toured their facility to get a feel for their personality and approach.  As a designer, I was especially interested to learn about the design and fabrication process for their custom golf carts.

I was genuinely impressed with their operation, and it became clear from the moment I walked into their showroom that their old website was doing their company a great disservice.  The former website was developed in FrontPage, looked outdated and was extremely difficult to navigate.  As I spoke with the owner Louie Hasbrouck and his Sales Manager Tim Cavanaugh, I immediately understood the strong sense of pride that goes into their work and the comraderie between staff.

The catalyst for the project however was to help promote the launch of their new product line, the All-American Series.  This is a new line of “green”  Low Speed Vehicles that require no gas to operate.  These vehicles can utilize up to 50% of recycled or certified remanufactured parts and materials, and is covered by a new vehicle warranty.  They even have optional solar tops for optimal energy efficiency.  Custom Carts knew they needed to have a highly professional website so when they begin promoting this new line of golf carts, the website will help sell them as the highly skilled professionals they are.

Once I familiarized myself with their products and process we discussed their new website design.  Because they are a creative, cutting edge company in their industry, we wanted to implement a much more contemporary design for the new website.  We incorporated bright, vibrant colors to make it visually stimulating, whereas the old website primarily used black throughout.  The old website also had long, run-on pages because their photos ran serially down the page.  This caused long page load times and was not very friendly for website visitors.  So we integrated a photo slideshow software that allows the staff of Custom Carts to keep it up to date when they finish a new project.  Because they had a fair amount of content, we used Spry to show/hide content to help consolidate their information and make the website more user-friendly.

When we launched the website, Tim said, “At the beginning I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out.  But now that we’re done, I can’t imagine our website looking any other way.”

Take a look at the new Custom Carts website and see what they have to offer.  You just might find the golf cart of your dreams.  Eat your heart out, Tiger Woods!

 

 

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Rescue Me

Date posted: May 20, 2011

Tales of Money Lost
If this topic resonates with you, read about our Rescue Me promotion.

It seems every week we receive a call from a frantic business owner who was left in a lurch by their web development company and is in need of rescue.  Unfortunately our industry is fraught with scams designed to take advantage of consumers’ lack of tech knowledge, and is notorious for poor (or non-existent) customer service.  The calls we receive are everything from issues with web designers who won’t return phone calls to complex scams that skim credit card numbers and sales from ecommerce websites.

If that second example sent chills down your spine, it should.

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Susie’s Lemonade Verizon Commercial

Date posted: May 17, 2011

How One Little Girl Built an Empire

Have you seen the Susie’s Lemonade commercial from Verizon?  Even though this commercial has been running for over a month, I still haven’t tired of it.  But you have to understand this in context—I rarely sit through commercials.  I am that channel-surfing guy you can’t stand to watch TV with.

For some reason this commercial has all the ingredients to resonate with my inner psyche, so I had to break it down and try to understand it.

First you have the iconic lemonade stand.  Almost everyone (at least in my age group – which I’m guessing is their target audience) has had experience with lemonade stands, bake sales, etc. growing up.  As the commercial opens, Susie’s father hands her the phone and says in a melodic fatherly tone, “it has a calculator on it.”  The implications here are two-fold: Susie’s father either doesn’t understand the power of the device he just handed her, and/or he underestimates Susie’s capabilities because she’s just a kid.  As she looks at the phone, you can see the “a-ha” moment as Susie realizes all she can accomplish with this simple little device.

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Celebrity Chef Showcase – Get your tickets now!

Date posted: May 3, 2011

Hurricane-inspired Dishes by Local Celebrity Chefs

Join us for an evening of fun at the Hurricane Bash Celebrity Chef Showcase benefiting the American Red Cross. Local celebrity chefs will be onsite cooking up their favorite hurricane-inspired dish to share with attendees; the catch is that they can’t use any electricity (grills and propane stoves are acceptable).

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The Great Equilizer

Date posted: April 29, 2011

Every so often I read studies that were performed to survey the amount of effort businesses put into their online marketing.  I am still astounded at the lack of resources being directed into the web, especially by small businesses.  Research I’ve seen shows that up to 15% of small businesses don’t even have a website!  Some studies show up to 65% of small businesses don’t sell products or take online payments on their website.

I didn’t grow up in this industry, so I feel like I still have somewhat of an ‘outsiders’ point of view.  In my experience in the healthcare industry, I spent about a decade running marketing departments or in other administrative roles directly related to public relations and marketing.  Back in those days websites were relatively basic, we didn’t have the option of creating company Facebook pages, and “Search Engine Optimization” consisted of stuffing a bunch of keywords into your Meta tags… if you even thought about SEO at all.  Even so I was always looking at ways to use technology to promote ourselves, become more efficient, stay in touch with clients, and organize information and keep it accessible.

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The Fun Part

Date posted: April 22, 2011

Normally I Blog about industry-heavy topics and techno-stuff.   So while I could be writing about the fact that your phone provider is documenting your every movement with your GPS, I was inspired instead to do something a little different this time around.

Earlier this week I attended a presentation, and the presenter is obviously passionate about his career and loves what he does.  During his presentation he conveyed something that really resonated with me.  He said besides loving the field he is in, what intrinsically drives him is finding solutions for his customers that help them be more successful.  There are many motivators that keep people going back to the same job every day.  Some simply want more money; some enjoy “closing the deal”; some like helping the disadvantaged; some enjoy crunching numbers.  As I sat in the audience and listened to the presenter I evaluated my own intrinsic motivations.  I realized that while I have always loved marketing and technology, what drives me is figuring out how to make our clients’ businesses more successful.

Not just the end product of helping a business be more successful, but also all the parts involved in the discovery process:  meeting the people involved with their company, learning about their business and industry, helping them think about what positions them against their competitors and how to leverage those advantages… and of course, how to build the better mouse trap using online marketing tactics.

In my years with Webtivity I have met and worked with hundreds of people from all backgrounds and from every industry you can imagine.  It is especially enjoyable when I can borrow something I learned from one industry and apply it to another.  Sometimes when you are “in the bubble” you don’t always have exposure to ideas and tactics used in other industries that might be successfully applied to your industry.

So there you go.  That’s what makes me feel satisfied at the end of a hard week of work, and that’s what I consider to be the Fun part of my job.  What drives you in your line of work?

 

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Joomla! Critical Security Vulnerabilities April 2011

Date posted: April 15, 2011

Yesterday the Webtivity Team was discussing the security vulnerabilities that have plagued the Joomla! CMS since its introduction. We have never felt comfortable recommending Joomla! as suitable website platform because of this.

I regularly monitor the Security Blogs for any exploits pertaining to popular Web Applications, and I hadn’t seen a major security vulnerability to the Joomla! Core in over a year.

Just as I thought Joomla! was getting their stuff together, in some uncanny form of Security Blog Telepathy; within 24 hours 8 new security vulnerabilities were announced on the Joomla! Developer Security Blog.  Two of these vulnerabilities are critical, including a SQL Injection vulnerability, and an Unauthorized Access vulnerability. Both of these vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to gain full control of the website and its content.

If your website Content Management System was built with the Joomla! 1.6 platform upgrade to the latest version (1.6.2)  immediately.  Unforunately there have also been issues with upgrading Joomla! in the past, so be sure your website and database is completely backed up before you attempt an upgrade so you can immediately restore your website if something goes wrong with the upgrade.



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Manatee Association of Realtors Workshop

Date posted: April 6, 2011

Preparing for the Rebound

Today I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop to a talented group of real estate professionals at the MAR Tech Tune-Up Conference.  Part of what I really love about my job is meeting new people who work in various industries,  come from different backgrounds, and look at the world from diverse perspectives. Then of course the fun part is applying online marketing principals to each of their businesses and creating a marketing plan to help them grow.  To say the real estate market in Florida has been challenging would be a colossal understatement.  So I wasn’t really sure how a workshop about “preparing for the rebound” would be received.

One of the first questions I asked the group today was whether they felt we are already in the rebound, if the rebound will happen in the next year, or if they felt the rebound would be 2+ years in the making.  I was pleased to see a large portion of the group either felt we are beginning the rebound or it is on the near horizon.  Not only did it make my presentation all the more relevant to the group, but it is also fantastic to see optimism in the business community.

The overarching theme of my presentation was the mechanics of how the rest of internet and search engines work in relation to your website.  So many in our industry target the instant gratification beast in all of us and sell the “get #1 rankings in Google tomorrow” message to make the quick sale.  Sometimes it’s tough to be the antithesis of that message and fight against all the noise, misinformation and clutter.  By educating our clients and providing informational workshops we hope to help our audience understand the basic principles of what is involved in a strong internet marketing strategy, help arm them with the right questions, and prevent them from falling for the myriad scams.

I’d like to thank the Manatee Association of Realtors, Angie Cegnar and Jeannie Flynn for inviting me to evangelize about my passions!



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Google Rolls Out Major Changes

Date posted: March 9, 2011

Honest SEO Tactics Prevail

Over the past month the SEO world has been abuzz and industry tacticians have been watching closely to determine how recent changes to the Google algorithm will shape search results.  We have noticed significant changes to our clients’ rankings over the past month, which are discussed below.

One of the major changes Google rolled out involve websites that “scrape” content from original source websites and post that original content on their sites.  This is done to artificially rank themselves high on the search engines.  Unfortunately several well-known, trusted websites found these scraping websites were ranking higher than they did for their target phrases, even though the scraping sites were taking their original content and simply pasting it on their sites.  The latest changes by Google seem to have significantly addressed this issue.

Google also addressed website hacking with their latest changes. Hackers infiltrate websites and paste code into those websites that creates backlinks to websites they are trying to artificially rank. Again, it seems the latest updates by Google have significantly addressed this issue.

Finally, the latest changes by Google target the copious amounts of “content farms” that have popped up online over the past few years.  These websites contain low-quality, often poorly written content that is simply produced to create backlinks to websites and artificially increase their rankings.  The proliferation of these types of websites has created a ton of space junk in the online universe.  Once again it appears Google engineers have successfully made a huge dent in dropping the rankings of websites associated with these content farms.

While we have seen a huge uproar online of SEO companies complaining about these changes, we have actually been really happy about them.  Across the board, all of our SEO clients have seen significant increases in their rankings.  We have seen our clients jump between 20-80 spots for keywords and phrases we are targeting for their campaigns.  We have even spoken to clients who have not been investing in an SEO campaign who have noticed their rankings have increased.

We have always advocated doing things the “right” way when it comes to developing and optimizing websites, and we know that there are a lot of scammers in our industry who try to sell their clients on “super-secret methods”.  We have continually reminded our clients that at the end of the day the people who try to scam the system will be left in the dust.  Our SEO campaign strategies are deployed with the intention of protecting our client’s long-term interests, not to portray short-term gains by using tactics built on a house of cards.

 

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Your Site May Be Compromised!

Date posted: March 4, 2011

Recent Google Changes Address Hacked Websites

While doing research for a client I came across a Google result that would send chills up my spine if I were the website owner.  The screenshot at right shows a Google result page where the top result has been flagged by Google as being “compromised“.  Google Result PageIf you look closely at the website description, you will see a promotion for that little blue pill that is meant to help men during those “special” times.  I’m pretty sure the Rockabilly Hall of Fame does not want to advertise that product to their audience.  Imagine the negative impact that is having for their website traffic and visitor trust.  Ouch!

(I hope I don’t have to say this, but please do not go to this website while it is still compromised– chances are you will get a virus.  You have been warned!)

According to Google, a major source of spam in 2010 was due to hacked websites like the one portrayed here.  Websites that have not been developed with security in mind, were developed using older technologies, or are located in insecure hosting environments are targets for hackers and spammers.   They compromise vulnerable websites, drop in their fodder, and sometimes also place malware on the website that infects visitors with viruses and/or spyware.

For all you movie star watchers, be aware that spammers and hackers target websites that rank well for high-trending search topics.  For example, for all you folks out there looking for the latest Charlie Sheen news (shame on you!) be aware the websites that rank highly for a Charlie Sheen search are being targeted by hackers so they can drop malware on your computer when you visit them.  According to a recent security report published by Barracuda Labs, the two most dangerous search terms are “music video” and “Jenni J-Woww”.

With the proliferation of this kind of spamming technique, Google has made adjustments to their algorithm to better detect hacked sites with their latest updates.  More importantly, Google’s latest updates have also targeted content farms and scraping websites.  We have seen our SEO clients benefit from these latest updates rolled out by Google, which tells us our tactics are seen by Google positively and provide the longest-term benefits for our clients.  That’s why we will continue to deploy best-practice SEO techniques for our clients!


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RBC Bank Blood Drive Rescheduled

Date posted:

Our friends at RBC Bank and  Suncoast Communities Blood Bank are having a blood drive.  So mark your calendars!




What:      Give Blood – Give Life

Date:       Friday, April 8th

Time:       10:30 am – 1:30 pm

Where:    RBC Bank Creekwood Branch (see map)

Contact:  Stephanie Shaw  941.727.6880



View Larger Map

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Celebrate National Women’s History Month

Date posted: March 1, 2011

Women have played a major role throughout history and do so even more today. Whether you are a man or woman, we can all name at least one woman that has influenced our lives.  She was probably your Mom, Grandmother, wife, teacher, or mentor.  I personally can think of many:  Debbie, my sister; Mrs. Humphrey, my high school teacher; Drs. Contois and Riipi, my college professors; Edi & Debbie, my mentors at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.

One of the most important women in my life was my Grandma. She was a dynamo right up to her passing last year at the age of 102 years old. Whether it was the church, American Legion, Eastern Star, Ruth Circle, playing cards, bowling, or some other activities, you could never find her at home. How many 101 year old ladies can beat their 70-80 year old male teammates in bowling?! She was full of energy, kindness, respect, and love.

My Mom was and even in passing still is the most important woman in my life. She is the one that brought me into this world, taught me, protected me, and cared for me. Her and my Father instilled values in each of us:  Courtesy, Honesty, Trust, Responsibility, Respect, Hard Work, and Unconditional Love.  She had her opinions and advice, but loved us regardless of our decisions, mistakes, or life we lived. These are values that have helped me in my education, careers, business and life in general.

These and many other women have touched my life over the years. I thank them all for making me into the person that I am today. So join me in thanking the women of your life during National Women’s History Month.

Also join the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee as they celebrate this special month and throughout the year. Everyone thinks of women as the solid foundation of the family. Well for whatever reason in life sometimes that foundation weakens. Women’s Resource Center is there to strengthen the foundation with their counseling and programs. Support them today so they are there to support you when life is not so kind.

Women’s Resource Center of Manatee – National Women’s History Month Activities

Essay Contest:
“A Florida Woman Who Made a Difference” an essay contest for students at PACE Center for Girls in grades 6 – 12, 1200 to 1500 words. Monetary Prizes are: 1st place: $250; second, $125; third, $75; fifth, $50. The winner will be announced at the Downtown Diva Derby.

“Look Beyond the Scale”
Karen R. Koenig, Psychology of eating expert .
March 17th  5-7 PM at the WRC
$20 fee which includes a copy of the book, Nice Girls Finish Fat.

“Creativity in Women”
Roxanne Dinkin,  local Psychologist
March 24th 5-7 PM at the WRC
$5 donation


Downtown Diva Derby
Saturday March 26th  3-6 PM on Old Main Street
“Well Behaved Seldom Make History” ~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Make Your Own History at the Downtown Diva Derby. A brand new event featuring 20 teams of four women each who will compete in a fun non athletic event for women. Activities for the men in your life, so make sure you bring them.

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To App or Not to App?

Date posted: February 23, 2011

Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Applications

At the time of this posting smartphones make up almost a quarter of the total mobile marketshare, and growth is accelerating blindingly.  As smartphones continue to increase in popularity we increasingly receive questions about mobile applications–you’ve probably heard Apple’s trademarked tagline, “There’s an app for that.”  With the popularity of smartphones, the popularity of applications has risen dramatically.  So does your business need a mobile website, or a mobile application?

My initial response is:  if you don’t have a mobile website, you have no business even thinking about a mobile application yet.  Have you ever tried to load a website on your phone that is not optimized for a mobile web browser?  The website may take forever to load (or not at all), and the formatting or navigation may be completely broken.  As a business owner you should always be looking for ways to make it easy to do business with your company.  A mobile website is a pretty inexpensive way to improve accessability for your company.

Remember, your mobile website typically doesn’t have to be a complete translation of your entire website.  For most companies your mobile website can consist of just a few pages of information geared toward an audience on-the-go.  Be sure to provide them with an easy way to find your phone #, directions, and enough information about your company to entice them to contact you immediately or go to your main website to learn more about you when they are at a desktop computer.

If you already have that squared away then you may be considering a mobile application.  In that case my first question to you will be:  how will you monetize it?  Unless you’re a global brand, or you think you may have the next great idea, chances are you don’t need a mobile app.  But perhaps you have an idea for an application you think people will pay for.  The most popular applications tend to be games, social media apps, news and sports apps and location-based apps.  Banking apps are becoming more popular as more people get comfortable with the notion of doing their banking on their cell phones.

If you determine this avenue makes sense you should consider that in order to reach the widest audience you will need to have your application developed for multiple platforms.  Android, iPhone and Blackberry are probably your biggest considerations.  Be aware that when the next cool phone operating system is released, you will need to have it developed for that platform as well, so be sure to also factor those costs into your long-term budget.

In the short-term you will need to budget for enhancements and bug fixing depending on the feedback and reviews you receive once the public starts downloading and using your application.  Even with intensive Beta testing and focus group testing, when you release it to the masses it is highly likely you will come across issues you didn’t anticipate.  Finally, be sure you have the resources ready at launch to quickly respond to issues that will inevitably arise or your customer ratings will suffer and we fickle smart phone users will delete your app and move on!



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Keep Your Computer Up to Date

Date posted: February 9, 2011

Your Security is at Risk!

Your computer and network are very similar to your car.  To keep it running properly and safely, you have to make sure it is maintained.  At the basic level you should at least be sure you keep your Operating System (e.g., Windows), web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) and Internet Security software (e.g., Norton) up to date.   Keeping your computer up to date improves your online experience by allowing you to take advantage of the latest technology advancements, but also keeps your online experience safe.

There is a constant battle between hackers and software vendors.  Hackers constantly find vulnerabilities in software, and software vendors are constantly fixing those vulnerabilities.  It is up to you to make those updates to your computer so you keep your personal data and your customer’s data safe! This is why PCI Compliance has become such a hot topic over the past few years.

It baffles us when we hear that multi-billion dollar corporations are still using Internet Explorer 6 and can’t upgrade it because their internal software won’t run in newer browser versions.  IE6 was originally released in 2001 and full of vulnerabilties, which puts these corporations and their customers all at risk.  It is truly a ticking time bomb and it is only a matter of time until we are all affected by the lack of investment in technical infrastructure.

To help our audience stay abreast of the latest security releases for popular software, we will make announcements on our Facebook page with a link to the updates.  If you don’t know how to update your computer you should learn– or if you have an IT person make sure he or she is keeping your computer up to date!


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Culture Change

Date posted: February 2, 2011

Making Your Social Media Successful

I have this discussion with every person who approaches us about social media marketing.  It seems the same false perception that has pervaded the website world (build it and they will come) also has leaked into the social media realm.  In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of noise on the Internet.  If you are a noise contributor, chances of your social media campaign driving success and business to your company are slim. 

However, if your social media campaign provides insight into your organization, is informative, and engages your audience with interesting and unique content, you have a much better chance for success.  Simply setting up automatic feeds that dump content into your social media channels from other news sources is not an adequate strategy.  That means you need to be heavily involved and engaged with planning and executing your social media campaign.  We may know the intricacies of how to broadcast your messages through social media channels, and we can help you devise a strong campaign,  but at the end of the day you and your employees need to be involved in generating content and help drive the messaging based on your marketing goals and growth plans.  That may mean a cultural shift within your business.  And for some people that may be a daunting proposition.

But in case you haven’t noticed, the world is online already, and commerce is driven by what people find online.  At the time of this post, online retail sales are projected to grow to $250 billion by 2014.  The time for your culture change needs to be sooner rather than later, doesn’t it?



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How to Lose Your #1 Position in Google

Date posted: January 26, 2011

And Waste Lots of Time and Money

This company, we will call “some-company.com”, sells repair services in Timbuktu for burritos, chimichangas, tortillas, etc.   (I’ve changed their real target keywords and phrases to protect them from embarrassment. )

In late 2009 “some-company.com” hired Webtivity to develop and execute a Search Engine Optimization Campaign for their website.  One of the primary strategies we focused on for their campaign was quality link building.  This means we obtained powerful links from relevant websites within their industry.  Absolutely no Blog Spam or poor directories were used to build links.

Bad Link Building Practices over 90 DaysBy the 1st quarter of 2010 the website for “some-company.com” was ranking in the top 5 positions on Google for 10 of their target keywords, and in the top 10 for all 15.

When they reached these rankings they decided they were very happy with the results, but respectfully declined to renew their contract with Webtivity.  What we didn’t know was the company had been lured by a scam company who promised to do the “same” work we were performing, but at a much reduced rate.  This scam company proceeded to build automated and spammy links for our previous client, and of course sent glowing reports about the number of links they were building to the website.

So what was the problem?

The search engines quickly realized what was happening and penalized the website.  But Google didn’t simply drop them in rankings, they completely removed the website from their indexes… right at the holidays.  The graph above shows a 90-day ranking report for the company’s website, showing their website entered October strong, and dropped off the chart completely right at the end of December.

Do you think they saved any money?  Shortcuts in our industry tend to lead to long-term headaches and expenses, so be skeptical when someone tells you they can do it for much less money.  There is a good reason why!



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How to Lose Your Social Media Audience

Date posted: January 24, 2011

And Damage Trust in Your Business

I didn’t post this on Friday even though I really wanted to take some time to vent.  My parents always instructed me to take a deep breath if I am frustrated or upset and collect my thoughts before speaking.  After careful consideration I decided I was too perturbed to write my post objectively and without any profanities.

The offender will go unnamed, so I did some quick Photoshopping on the screenshot I took of their Facebook page on Friday.  To protect the innocents, I also made sure none of the other victims of this dumb social media scheme get exposed in my post either.

So what did they do to attract this writer’s ire?

On Friday I received a Facebook alert that I had been tagged in a Photo by this company.  Hmm.  Strange, since this isn’t a company I have done business with.  But I do go to various networking events around town so maybe….?  When I clicked the link to see the photo I was taken to the page portrayed above, which displayed one of this company’s advertisements.  They apparently uploaded their ad to their Photo Album and then “tagged” me on the photo.  This caused Facebook to send me an alert that linked over to this company’s ad.  What an underhanded way of getting someone to your Facebook page!

So, I promptly reported them to Facebook for spamming me.  The spam report will probably go into some endless abyss of complaints and no action will be taken by Facebook, but at least it made me feel better.  But not as good as it felt to un-friend them and Block them from contacting me in the future.  Now THAT felt good!

Now the moral of the story:  this company’s actions taught everyone they tagged in their advertisement that they may not be a trustworthy company, and that they are willing to resort to underhanded tactics to try to make a sale.  Is that the image you would want to portray about your company?  I hope they aren’t paying someone to operate their social media campaign, because if they are they are getting very poor advice.


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Hot Asian Girls! And SEO?

Date posted: January 19, 2011

Marketing Gone Bad

It seems like I’m always writing about the bad stuff in our industry.  But we see it everywhere and people fall for this stuff all the time!  If no one fell for ‘Nigerian Lottery’ and ‘Guaranteed #1 Ranking on Google’ scams all of it would simply disappear and the world would be a much better place.  But the sad fact seems to be that P.T. Barnum was right.  Or maybe that’s too harsh.  Maybe people just like to be told what they want to hear?

To protect the readers of this Blog post I am not going to link to the website we found yesterday, because rest assured someone would go there and end up buying from this company.  You can look at the screenshot at right if you like, but I warn you:  I felt like I needed a shower after looking at this website.

This website purports to get you “Unlimited Top 3 Rankings in 23 Minutes!”  Sorry friends, but that is impossible.  If you are launching a brand new website we have seen it take over a week before it gets indexed by Google.  There is nothing you can do to expedite the process of getting your website to show up in the search engines for the first time.

Our guess is this company is going to open a Pay Per Click account for you and try to tell you that your website is #1.  Well, it’s #1 in the Paid Advertising (Pay Per Click) section–not in the organic listings.  That is what one might label deceptive.  It is definitely designed to take advantage of people who are not informed.

If you want to hear that you can launch a new website today and be #1 in Google tomorrow I will give you this company’s phone number.  Let me know how it works out.

If you want to hear the truth about SEO, read on.



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Customer Support System Update

Date posted: January 14, 2011

Tutorial Video for Webtivity Clients

This tutorial will guide you through the basics of our upgraded Support System.  If you’ve lost your login credentials you can click the “Lost Password” link at the Login screen, enter your email address, and your login information will be emailed to you.

Support System Login:
http://support.webtivitydesigns.com

[jwplayer config=”Custom Player” mediaid=”2378″]




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Lavely and White – Bradenton Attorneys

Date posted: January 12, 2011

Using Video for Education and Trust

During our first conversation with Steve Lavely, a Personal Injury Attorney with Lavely & White, P.A.,  Mr. Lavely expressed concern about the reputation attorneys have, and how many attorney referral services are harming his industry.   As a result he wanted his website to be an educational resource for potential clients and he wanted to teach website visitors how to best choose a reputable attorney.

During our planning meetings with Mr. Lavely we mutually agreed video could be an extremely powerful vehicle to meet these goals.  Not only could video be used to educate website visitors and help build trust in that manner, but also for video testimonials.  Having your clients sing your praises on video can have tremendous impact for website visitors making a purchasing decision.  Especially in an industry where trust may be lacking.

Watch Mr. Lavely discuss Lawyer Referral Services:

More videos about how to choose an attorney can be found on their website.


About Lavely and White, P.A.
Attorney Steven Lavely is Board Certified in Civil Trial and has been lead trial counsel representing thousands of plaintiffs in all types of injury cases, including catastrophic injuries. Attorney Matt Whyte is Board Certified in Criminal Trial and experienced in personal injury cases, having tried many felony and misdemeanor criminal cases. Matt is a former insurance company lawyer, so he is also familiar with the tactics insurance companies use. Together, they have tried hundreds of cases, both jury and non-jury.



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Email – Don’t Trust It!

Date posted: January 11, 2011

The Golden Rules of Using Email

I received a panicked call last evening from a friend who I consider to be above average when it comes to technical prowess.  She said she received an email from her bank that her online account was compromised.  She frantically started relating a story about her friend whose identity was stolen and what a nightmare it was and how terrible this is going to be if she needs to go through all this terrible stuff….!

I interrupted her stream of consciousness tirade and calmly asked if she had received a call from her bank, or just an email.  She had only received an email.  Hmmm.  I asked her to forward the email to me and told her to take a few deep breaths.

Indeed, when I saw the email it became apparent it was a phishing email designed to freak out the recipient, and then have them click on a link to “log in” to his or her “account”.  When you click the link you go to the bad guys’ website, and when you try to log in they capture the user name and password you entered on their website.  Then they go to the real bank website, login and drain your account.

There were several items that tipped me off this was a phishing email.  Even though the email address was “spoofed” and it looked like it was truly coming from her bank, when I hovered my mouse over the “login” link in the email I immediately saw the link was not taking you to the bank website.  The link was designed to fool someone who didn’t know what they were looking at, so I have placed two examples below to give you a little quiz.

If your bank’s main website is located at www.mybank.com, which of these login links should be valid?

Example 1:
www.mybank.money.com/login.aspx

Example 2:
www.money.mybank.com/login.aspx

If you chose Example 2, you are correct!  Whatever comes immediately before the .com, .net, .us, .biz, .WHATEVER is the actual web address.  So in Example 1, you were actually going to a sub-domain of money.com.  In Example 2, you were going to a sub-domain of mybank.com, which is where you really wanted to go.

Confused?  That’s okay, because I’m going to give you  a foolproof way to never get duped by one of these emails: Never, ever click on a link in an email to go to an account login screen.  Especially for something as senstive as your bank account! Instead, type the web address into your web browser, and then go to the login screen from there.  Luckily my friend called me first before clicking the link and trying to log into her bank account.

Online security and website security are important to keeping the web a safe place to do business.  Educate yourself and make sure your computers, networks, servers and websites are all kept up to date with the latest security patches.

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Mobile Check In

Date posted: January 6, 2011

QR Codes Used by Airports Across the U.S.

Traveling over the holidays can be a pain– ask anyone who got stuck in the airport over the holidays!  But over the past few years the airline industry has streamlined the process for tech-savvy travelers.  Mobile check-in and flight alerts are just some of the benefits travelers can take advantage of.  For those of you who came to my workshop on QR Codes and Microsoft Tags, you may remember I talked about using QR technology to generate paperless tickets for sporting events, concerts and flights.

How many of you saw signs like the one at the right while you were traveling over the holidays?  If you flew out of SRQ you didn’t see it because they aren’t offering the service yet.  But if you flew from TPA you could have used a paperless ticket to expedite your way through security.  In fact there are approximately 54 airports across the country offering this service, and soon Ft. Myers will be adding this service too!

If you haven’t downloaded a QR Code application to your smartphone yet, go to QRcurious.com using your smartphone and select the app that will work best for your phone.  If you want to make a free QR code for your business we have a free QR Code Generator on our website.

Hope you had a great holiday!


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Google Chrome – Fast

Date posted: December 16, 2010

Google has fun showing off their web browser’s prowess

Have you seen Google’s ads for their Chrome web browser?  If not check out the video, it’s pretty amazing stuff!  Expect to see the Mythbusters perform their own set of tests to verify the voracity of the video!



Further explanation from Google:

“These speed tests were filmed at actual web page rendering times. If you’re interested in the technical details, read on!

Equipment used:

– Computer: MacBook Pro laptop with Windows installed
– Monitor – 24″ Asus: We had to replace the standard fluorescent backlight with very large tungsten fixtures to funnel in more light to capture the screen. In addition, we flipped the monitor 180 degrees to eliminate a shadow from the driver board and set the system preferences on the computer to rotate 180 degrees. No special software was used in this process.
– Camera: Phantom v640 High Speed Camera at 1920 x 1080, films up to 2700 fps

“Why does allrecipes.com in the potato gun sequence appear at once, and not the text first and images second? And why does it appear to render from bottom of the screen to the top?”

Chrome sends the rendered page to the video card buffer all at once, which is why allrecipes.com appears at once, and not with the text first and images second. Chrome actually paints the page from top to bottom, but to eliminate a shadow from the driver board, we had to flip the monitor upside down and set the system preferences in Windows to rotate everything 180 degrees, resulting in the page appearing to render from bottom to top.

“Why does the top one third of the page appear first on the weather.com page load?”

Sometimes only half the buffer gets filled before the video card sends its buffer over to the LCD panel. This is because Chrome on Windows uses GDI to draw, which does not do v-sync.

“The screen wipes are so smooth – how was that achieved?”

The screen wipes up in a gradated wipe because LCD pixels take around 10ms to flip and gradually change color.

More filming details below:

Chrome Browser vs. Potato:
We used a version of the web page allrecipes.com that is accessible when logged in. About four hours into the Potato Gun shoot we decided to use a locally loaded version of the web page to enable more precise synchronization with the potato gun. We finally got the shot we were hoping for after 51 takes.

Chrome Browser vs. Sound:
We loaded an artist page from Pandora.com, a streaming internet radio service directly off the web on a 15Mbps internet connection.

Chrome Browser vs. Lightning:
We used a locally loaded version of weather.com that was legally approved for use in this video (and all the standard website permissions procedures that goes into making videos!)

While we had a super fast 15Mbps internet connection in the studio, any live internet connection introduces quite a bit of variability. To run speed tests on page rendering times, saving locally and loading from the local disk can help reduce this variability.

For behind-the-scenes footage of how this video was made:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oarMXGq3gI


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Password Security

Date posted: December 13, 2010

“It’s too hard to remember all those passwords!”

That’s the excuse we hear most often when we warn our clients about password security.  There are lots of nervous people out there today who use the same password for their online banking, email account, Amazon account, PayPal account, and whatever else they do online.

Popular website Gawker got hacked over the weekend, and the hackers posted sensitive user information (inlcuding passwords) on the web for the whole world to see.  If you would like to read more about the situation, you can read a Blog post by Forbes.com.

First, however, we suggest you go update your passwords!





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Update from Microsoft Regarding Tag

Date posted: December 6, 2010

For those of you who missed this update from Microsoft regarding their Tag service– as had been speculated they will be charging for more “advanced” features of the Tag service.  Read their Terms of Use for more information:


From: Tagwire <microsoft@email.microsoftemail.com>
Date: Sat, Dec 4, 2010 at 2:57 PM
Subject: Important Notice: Updates to Microsoft Tag Service and Tag Creation API Agreement
To: webtivitydesigns.com

Dear valued user of Microsoft Tag:

We have updated our terms of use under the Microsoft Tag Service and Tag Creation API Agreement. These changes are effective immediately and do not require any additional action from you. You may review the new terms of use here:  http://tag.microsoft.com/tag-terms-of-use.aspx. Users of the Microsoft Tag API will not need to reapply for a new API key due to these updates.

Among the changes, we promise to you that certain basic features of the Microsoft Tag service will remain free for as long as we operate the Microsoft Tag service. These basic features are defined in the terms of use, and include the ability to create basic Tags. We will also use commercially reasonable efforts to make these basic features available until at least January 1, 2015, and provide two years prior notice before we terminate the basic features or the entire Microsoft Tag service.   Please review the new terms of use to see the important details of these changes.

Thank you for using Microsoft Tag.

The Microsoft Tag team

Microsoft Tag Home


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A Plea to Angie’s List

Date posted: December 2, 2010

Dear Angie’s List:
I’ve seen your four or five commercials.  Over, and over, and over again.  I get it–the painter stormed out of the room, his red shoe leading the way… 
Sheeesh!!

Because these few same commercials have been running incessantly for what seems an eternity, whenever they appear on my boob-tube it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.  In fact, now that I look, the “red shoe” commercial was originally posted on YouTube in 2007.  Am I in the minority here?  Isn’t it time to change it up a little?  Maybe a commercial about a pet store that sold a parrot that doesn’t talk?  A driving instruction school whose cars only have 3 wheels?  Something??  Anything???

From a consumer standpoint, when I see these stale commercials I think, “Gee, people must not be posting new things on their website, and they don’t have anything new to say–I wonder how much longer Angie’s List will be around?”  That is a dangerous message to convey to your audience.

But again, maybe it’s just me… maybe I’m the one with the short attention span.

Now what was I talking about?




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Protect Your Identity

Date posted: December 1, 2010

Treat Your Web Address Like Your Social Security #

Around the holidays we hear a lot of stories about identity theft, so it seemed timely to do a post about protecting your company’s online identity.  We have been in business for over 10 years and have seen the bad and ugly in our industry, and often the baddest and ugliest surrounds web addresses (also known as ‘domain names’.)

We typically come across three common situations in our industry:

1)  IT personnel or web developer controls the web address and holds it hostage
If your IT company or web development company manages your domain renewals for you, it is likely very convenient because you never have to worry about renewals.  But if you ever try to sever your business relationship with them they have a lot of power by holding your domain name.  Be sure you have something in writing that states you own the domain name, and insures they will cooperate with transferring it to you or another party upon request.  While they can still create a lot of hassle if you try to sever your relationship with them, this gives you additional ammunition to take to the registrar and plead your case to get your domain released.

2)  Company accidentally allows their web address to expire
If you manage your own domain name, make sure the credit card on your account is up to date and your account is set to auto-renew.  You should also make sure the email address on your registrar account is an email address that will never change, such as a Yahoo or Gmail address.  If you move, your Roadrunner email account may change to a Verizon account, and you will not receive renewal notifications if you forget to update your registrar account.

Also, the contact email address on the account should not be an account that uses your web address.  For example, if your web address is mycompany.com, do not place email@mycompany.com as your contact email on the account.  If the domain expires, you will not be able to retrieve emails from the registrar to gain control of your account, and the process will be many times more difficult to rectify.

3)  Company is scammed out of  giving up control of their web address
And finally, spend the extra money on Private Registration.  This hides your personal information from potential phishers and scammers.  All of the information on your registrar account is public, and it makes it very easy for scammers to send you emails, faxes, snail mail or even make telephone calls and attempt to obtain your credit card and account login information.

For example, here is all the information that would be accessible to the public if you do not have Private Registration:

Registrant:
Webtivity Design Solutions

9115 58th Drive East
Suite B
Bradenton, Florida 34202
United States

Registered through: Webtivity Domains
Domain Name: WEBTIVITYDESIGNS.COM
Created on: 16-Aug-00
Expires on: 16-Aug-15
Last Updated on: 14-Jan-10

Administrative Contact:
Design Solutions, Webtivity  xxx @webtivitydesigns.com
9115 58th Drive East
Suite B
Bradenton, Florida 34202
United States
+1.9417537574 Fax — +1.9417538564


That’s a lot of information available for Phishers that they can use to target you and try to convince you they are contacting you from your registrar.   Follow these tips and protect your company’s most important marketing tool!


2)  clients’ IT personnel or web developer controls the web address and holds it hostage
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Brighten The Holidays Of A Needy Senior

Date posted: November 18, 2010

Help Meals On Wheels Plus of Manatee make this holiday season brighter for a needy Senior by participating in one or both of these events.  If you cannot attend the events, you may drop off your filled shoe box at the Webtivity Designs office at 9115 58th Drive East Suite B from 8 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday up until Friday December 10th.  We will deliver your shoe box to Polo Grill on December 12th for you.  Please Help – Your gift may be the only one they receive this year!

Community Shoe Box Reception at the Lakewood Ranch Polo Grill and Bar on December 12, 2010 from 3-6 pm.  Admission is a wrapped shoe box filled with new items or a $20 donation to Meals On Wheels Plus.  Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and one free drink for each donated filled shoe box.  Click here to download more information on the Polo Grill event and how to wrap and fill the shoe box

GIO Fabulous Shoe Boxes for Seniors at GIO Restaurant locations on December 12, 2010 from 2-5 pm. Bring your wrapped shoe box to your local GIO Restaurant during normal business hours anytime prior to Reception Christmas Party and receive a “GIO Party Pass” for entry on December 12th.  Complimentary wine, beer, and appetizers. Click here to download more information on the GIO event and how to wrap and fill the shoe box



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SEO Best Practice – An Overview

Date posted: November 17, 2010

So what is SEO?

Over the past few months we have talked about many of the title in the SEO industry and things to watch out for when hiring a company to help position your website in the major search engines. Now we would like to shift gears and talk about all the things that must be a part of your SEO campaign to be successful.

There are two primary factors to consider when determining how the search engines rank your website: things that occur on your website (on-page SEO) and things that occur outside of your website (off-page SEO.)

On-page SEO consists of some of the following:

– proper competitor reconnaissance (you need to know why your competitors are ranked above you before you can determine the best strategy to overtake them)

– domain age (how long a website has existed at your web address– search engines prefer websites with history behind them)

– your website architecture (if it was developed to current search engine standards)

– your text (if your keywords and phrases appear in the content)

– HTML enhancements (using HTML to emphasize important elements to the search engines)

– proper keyword research (targeting keywords and phrases that are popular will provide better targeted traffic to your website)

– frequent updates (search engines treat new information as better information)

Off-page SEO consists of some of the following:

– the number of websites and social media sites that link to you

– how much the search engines “trust” the websites that link to you

– how those websites link to you

– your presence in popular business listing sites such as Google Places

You should see that in order to operate a smart campaign you obviously need to have some in depth knowledge of how your website, the Internet, the search engines and your competitors’ websites all interact.   This takes a lot of research, experience and time.  And on top of that your competitors are constantly adjusting their strategies, and the search engines are constantly changing the rules of the game.   That is why reputable search engine optimization services aren’t cheap and are a long-term proposition.  That is also why we have invested in industry-leading software that helps us analyze our clients’ websites and their competitors’ websites so we can find gaps in their competitors’ strategies and capitalize on them.

Learn more about our SEO campaigns.

 

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Turning away customers that are standing right outside your store

Date posted: November 15, 2010

Buffalo Wild Wings Home Page

UPDATE: Buffalo Wild Wings has updated their site since this post was originally written. I’ve included an update at the bottom.

Last Thursday I was craving some buffalo wings from my favorite wing place, Buffalo Wild Wings. Being Thursday I knew they were offering their “Boneless Thursdays” special. I just wanted to call in my order so I could pick it up and bring it home. I was not sure of the quantities offered for boneless wings and I don’t like wasting someone’s time on the phone asking. It’s hard enough for them to get my name right with all the commotion in the background.  I decided to pull up their site on my mobile phone in search of a menu.

I was glad to see they had a mobile site because their main site would have taken an hour to download on my mobile device. The mobile site loaded quickly on my phone, unfortunately there was no menu link to be found. I was just presented with find a location, and pick your kick.

OK… maybe if I search for my location the menu will be on the restaurant location page…

Search by zip code or state…Really? State? Maybe if a visitor is out of town and doesn’t know the zip code they are currently in, but you expect to find a location by browsing through all the locations in that state and instantly know in relation one is to where they are? I might as well just load up Google Maps and search for Buffalo Wild Wings near my location.

Anyway back to my search for a menu.  OK, punch in my zip code and hit enter and on the next page I’m presented with this:

“Oh, you’re in that part of town? Here are the closest BWW’s”

What do you mean “Oh, you’re in that part of town?” What’s wrong with that part of town? I live in that part of town.  I’m sure that whoever decided to put this statement at the top of results was trying to be cute, different, and I’m sure they probably intended it to be enthusiastic. Unfortunately it’s hard to portray emotion over the web and this statement can be interpreted two different ways. After reading this I was a little bit insulted, and lost my craving for wings. I never did find the menu either, the original reason why I was on their site.

Just to make sure I wasn’t the only one who took this statement the wrong way I asked a couple of people in the office to find the nearest Buffalo Wild Wings from their phone, and everyone here thought that same thing when presented with that statement.  It’s good to have fun messages on your site but emotion is difficult to portray, and sarcasm is almost always impossible.

Buffalo Wild Wings is typically a fun place to spend your evening watching a game; it’s a great idea to try to bring the atmosphere of your business over to your website. They do a good job of that with their main website, but mobile visitors want information, and they want it fast.

UPDATE: Buffalo Wild Wings has updated their mobile site, and did a great job. On the Home Page of the Mobile site you’re presented with the Menu, Locations, and Specials. Perfect! Exactly what I need nothing more, nothing less. The overall design carries over the branding from the main website, and the store itself. The location finder is now a single field asking for zip or state. The menu is easy to navigate and find what I would like to order.  They even kept the humor in the site and wrote it in a way that cannot be misinterpreted; If you do not select a location you’re presented with a message telling you that your phone is going to self-destruct. When your local restaurant is selected I am shown the pricing for each item. The Store location page has the address with a “map to” link, the phone number, and the hours.

I’d love to think that Buffalo Wild Wings saw my post this past summer, and decided to make the changes based on what I had to say but I will never know. They corrected the areas that needed improvement, and then some. Their Web Designers/Developers did a great job with the re-design.

 

 

 

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Tri-Chamber Scavenger Hunt Leaderboard

Date posted: November 12, 2010

We had over 50 attendees sign up for the Scavenger Hunt at the Tri-Chamber Event at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center on Wednesday–thank you to everyone who participated!  We had a blast putting everything together for the event and it was a lot of fun watching everyone climb under tables and around the perimeters of the Convention Center to find those elusive tags.

Throughout the night participating booth vendors from the Manatee and Venice Chambers of Commerce told us their placards were definitely driving traffic to their booths.  Chris Simonis-Whittaker from Anna Maria Oyster Bar said, “Those who participated had a great time and they were really happy our sign was worth a 1000 points!”

After seeing how much fun participants were having, Brynne Anne Besio from the South Florida Museum asked if we could help them do a similar Scavenger Hunt at their annual Vinology Event.  “When we saw all the fun attendees were having at the Tri-Chamber Event we realized the potential to launch a similar scavenger hunt during our Vinology event on February 4th,” said Besio.  She continued, “This year we hope Vinology guests will enjoy wine tasting stations complete with QR tags.  We look forward to experimenting with this technology as we continue to attract a younger audience to the Museum.”

After the Scavenger Hunt ended two “seasoned” ladies approached  our booth to ask us if they could still scan the tags even though the event was over, because they were having so much fun.  It just goes to show, technology can be fun… even if you aren’t a young whippersnapper!

A special Thank You to those who contributed prizes for the Scavenger Hunt:

1st Prize – 24″ Dell Monitor from Suncoast Business Technologies
Winner: Karen Lapensee, Lapensee Plumbing

2nd Prize – Droid 2 phone from the Verizon Wireless Store on Cattlemen Road
Winner: Susan Humphreys, Certified QuickBooks Advisor

3rd Prize – Lunch and Consultation Package from iconnectu
Winner: Jerry Solomon, Advanced Technology Services and Support

4th Prize – Mobile Website from Webtivity Designs
Winner: Ed Copeland, Keetons Office and Art Supply

5th Prize – QR/Tag Package from Webtivity Designs
Winner: James Lehan, Qualicare Cleaning Inc.

Here is a screenshot of the Leaderboard with the winners and runners up– thank you for participating!



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Tri-Chamber Booth Drawing Winner

Date posted: November 11, 2010

A late stop at our Tri-Chamber booth ended up being fortuitous for Mitchel Krouse, Attorney at Law.  He has won a free SEO consultation at the Webtivity office and $100.00 off his campaign setup if he chooses to move forward with a campaign.  Congratulations to Mitchel Krouse!

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Tri-Chamber Booth Drawing Winner

Date posted:

Dr. Matthew C. Byars, DDS from the office of Dr. Bowles and Dr. Byars in Sarasota won a tasty gift basket from Cappojim.  They roast their own coffee beans and help fuel the Webtivity Team.  Congratulations to Dr. Byars!

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SEO Scam #14

Date posted: November 3, 2010
“Our Work Is Proprietary”

Some SEO companies will try to convince you that the services they provide are super-secret and proprietary and will try to assign copyrights to the work they perform for you.  If you have read anything Google has to say about search engine optimization, you know there are no super-secret methodologies to ranking websites.  Google is very straight forward and open about what makes a website rank well.

The reason an SEO company may try to obtain copyrights to their work is primarily because they may want to keep you over a barrel if you ever try to leave them.  That means they will try to strip your website of all the work they have performed over the term of your contract and you will be back to square one.

Depending on what state your SEO company is based in, you may have limited recourse if they try to pull a fast one on you.  As you may know, some states are notorious for attracting scammy companies because of lax laws. <cough – Utah – cough>  Some states prohibit the assignment of copyrights from the original author to a client under ‘Work for Hire” agreements unless you purchase workers compensation and unemployment insurance prior to any work being done.  (Google “California Labor Code 3351.5(c)” for a perfect example of this.)

Over the past few months we have provided many examples of scams that occur in the SEO industry to help educate you on what to watch out for when hiring a reputable SEO company.  Now it is time to show you the other side of the coin: what exactly should be done by my SEO company?  Stay tuned!

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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Tri-Chamber Scavenger Hunt

Date posted: November 1, 2010

Scan and win!

When you arrive at the Sarasota Bradenton International Convention Center on November 10th, you are going to see hundreds of signs all over the Convention Center with Quick Response (QR) codes on them.  You will be asked to register for the scavenger hunt with your smart phone and then you can scan away.  As you scan QR codes with your smart phone, you will accumulate points.  At the end of the night, the people with the most points will win some great prizes, including a Dell 24″ monitor– a $200.00 value!

Besides the normal QR signs scattered around the Convention Center, participating booth vendors from the Manatee and Venice Chambers of Commerce will have special signs at their booths worth BIG points.  You will be provided with a list of participating booths when you arrive, so be sure you visit them all and scan their QR signs so you have the best chance of winning!

There will be a Leaderboard at the Webtivity booth to provide up-to-the-minute information on who is winning.

How Do I Get the App for my Smartphone?

Webtivity Designs has developed a special website that automatically recognizes what smart phone you are using to visit the website and recommends the appropriate app for you.

Simply visit www.QRcurious.com with your smart phone and follow the instructions– it’s that simple!

Why Should I Care About This Stuff?

Besides winning a great prize, having some fun and meeting new people at the Tri-Chamber event?  This technology has been around since 1994 and with the popularity of smart phones it is here to stay.  In the near future you will no longer be issued paper tickets for events, a QR code will be sent directly to your smart phone to be redeemed at the door when you arrive at the event.

But this technology can be used now to help you save money while shopping!   Learn how to do comparison shopping right from the store by reading our Blog post about the ShopSavvy smart phone application.

 

Have fun, and see you at the Tri-Chamber event!!

 

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Be a Savvy Shopper

Date posted:

Use your smart phone to save money

The National Retail Federation expects U.S. holiday sales to increase by 2.3% this year; a 1.5% increase over last year.  If you plan on increasing your holiday spend this year, why not make sure you’re getting the best deals?

We have been showing our clients the capabilities of Quick Response (QR) technology for use in their online marketing arsenal.  The same technology can also be used to make you a smarter shopper.  Enter the ShopSavvy app, which is available for the Android and iPhone.  There will soon be versions released for Blackberry and Windows 7 phones.  While the  ShopSavvy app can scan QR codes, its real power is unleashed when you use it to scan product UPC codes while you’re shopping.

Imagine scanning a product UPC with your phone and doing comparison shopping right there in the store!  ShopSavvy will pull up prices from online sources as well as other stores in your area.  If you find a nearby store that has the same item at a cheaper price, the app makes it extremely easy to call the store to make sure they have it in stock, and will also help you map directions.

It also allows you to set up Price Alerts so you are notified if a product falls below a determined price point.  Now that is smart shopping!

Learn more about the ShopSavvy app for your phone:

Watch a video on the features of ShopSavvy:



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SEO Scam #13

Date posted: October 27, 2010
SEO Poisoning Attacks

This isn’t necessarily something you will come across when engaging an SEO company for search engine optimization services, but it is definitely something to be aware of when you’re surfing the web.  Cyber criminals love to monitor search trends and target popular search phrases for their attacks.  So if you’re searching for the latest scoop on a popular movie or your favorite celebrity’s latest scuffle with the law, beware of the websites you visit to get your media fix!

As mentioned, scammers will pay attention to search trends and locate websites that rank well for a highly searched topic.  The scammers then target those well-ranked websites and look for specific security vulnerabilties that will allow them in infuse malicious code into them.  This maliciious code fools the search engines when someone clicks on a result from a search page.  It fools the search engines by telling them to load a different web page than the actual page that appears in the result.

Unsuspecting surfers who searched for a popular search phrase will click on a search engine result and automatically be taken to a malicious website that will try to install malware on their computers.  If they haven’t kept their anti-virus software up to date they will get infected!  A variation of this scheme will launch a fake virus alert and try to convince the visitor to install free “anti-virus” software.  Of course, if you elect to install the software you are actually willingly installing malware on your computer!
So the moral of the story is to keep your anti-virus software up to date, always be alert when searching the web, and never install something on your computer unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re installing is safe!

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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Engage and Inform Your Audience

Date posted: October 26, 2010

Benderson Development and Webtivity Launch New Kings Gate Website

Kings Gate is a 55+ adult community offering sales and leasing of furnished and unfurnished homes and villas, customized home building, and all within an active resort lifestyle.   It was this image of resort-style living that Benderson Development wished to portray when they approached Webtivity with their website redesign project.  Kings Gate already had a website, but the design had become outdated and no longer adequately represented the community as a whole.

Since many would-be occupants of this Florida retirement community are outside of the area looking to relocate, the website must make an impactful first impression.  With this in mind, it is vital that the website make a strong impact at first glance.  The website design must portray the style of the community, and there of course needs to be a strong emphasis on call-to-action to get future residents to pick up the phone or send an email to request more information.

The focal point of the website is the Community Site Map, which is a key sales tool for the community. Webtivity worked in tandem with Kings Gate’s art department to integrate their internal artwork into a fully interactive solution, which visitors can use to zoom in and manipulate in a similar manner to Google Maps. Users can highlight specific models on the map and then view that model’s details, such as floorplan and square footage. The map includes the phone number to the leasing office as well as a link to the Contact page to convert visitors to potential residents.

Webtivity also made several recommendations in terms of the overall organization and page structure to make the website more intuitive and user-friendly.  We also discussed making some areas of the website dynamic, so Kings Gate staff can manage their own content.  This is extremely important for an active community to keep current residents up-to-date and to convey to future residents the full scope of their ongoing activities.

The end result is a beautiful and dynamic website that portrays the active lifestyle that is at the heart of the Kings Gate community. From the subtle textures of the design to the interactive site map, the Kings Gate website makes it clear this is the place to retire in southwest Florida.

Visit the Kings Gate website for more information:
http://kingsgatehomes.com


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SEO Scam #12

Date posted: October 20, 2010

“We Will Create Doorway Pages for You!”

Entry pages, portal pages, gateway pages, jump pages, doorway pages: whatever you call them they do not provide a tangible SEO strategy for your business.  In the old days, these tactics worked, but search engines quickly realized there was a lot of clutter making its way into the search engine results.  Clutter devalues search engines, so it is no surprise they have adjusted their algorithms to deal with this tactic.
stuck in the doorway
So how do you spot a doorway page?  Typically doorway pages cannot be reached from your main website’s navigation.  The intention is that you reach your main website through the doorway page, but never the reverse.  Doorway pages are also very obviously designed to attract search engines, and not necessarily human visitors.  This is evident by the repetition of keywords and phrases and the nonsensical sounding language on the page.

The purpose of the doorway page is to artificially rank the page in the search engines, attract visitors and obtain a click-through to the main website.  Not only do search engines shun these types of pages, but as you can imagine, they are not very effective for human visitors either.

“Welcome to the best Sarasota SEO website in the best Sarasota SEO city in the Sarasota SEO world!  We Sarasota SEO your website better than any other Sarasota SEO company in the Sarasota SEO universe!  In case you didn’t Sarasota SEO realize it, we’re targeting Sarasota SEO with this Sarasota SEO landing page!”

If you visit a page that is designed like this are you going to click through to the website, or will you think they are insane and click the Back button?  I mean, really….

However, don’t confuse this tactic with what you should be doing for your Pay Per Click (PPC) landing pages.  PPC landing pages should be designed to receive click-through traffic from ads and deliver very targeted information to visitors (without all the crazy repetition of course.)  PPC landing pages should prompt the completion of the primary call-to-action on the page, such as calling a special phone #, completing a contact form, etc.  But these pages are not designed to artificially rank in the search engine results; they are designed to Conversion Rate Optimzation best practice standards.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series .

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SEO Scam #11

Date posted: October 13, 2010

“We guarantee 10,000 visitors per week to your website!”

This scam is sometimes referred to as a Guaranteed Traffic Program.  If you fall for this scheme, you likely will be getting traffic through one of two sources: automated bots and/or porn sites.  It is fairly easy for anyone with basic programming skills to pull off both ends of this scam.

For the first part of this scam, the company will set up a website that has an automated process programmed into it that will reach out to your website periodically and request pages from it.  Every time these automated bots visit your website, it racks up a visit on your analytics.  Of course, your SEO company will make their quota of “visitors” every single month because they control how often the bots hit your website!

In order to successfully pull off this scam, the SEO company will need to obscure some of your analytics information from you.  So if you don’t know the right questions to ask of your SEO company, you’re making it very easy for them to conceal this scam.  If the SEO company does not provide you with access to your analytics account, you will never see that all the traffic to your website is coming from the same IP address.  However, if the company is serious about scamming you and want to try to cover their tracks, they will send the requests to your website through proxy servers, which obscures where the “traffic” is originating.

The other part of this scam involves what are called “pop-under” windows.  You’ve probably experienced traditional pop-up windows when visiting websites.  These are the annoying ad windows that automatically open and obscure the web page you’re trying to view.  Pop-under windows still open, but do not obscure the page you’re viewing.  So, the SEO company will develop relationships with networks of porn sites and have pop-under ads that request pages of your website, artificially inflating the “traffic” to your website.

If you’re correctly monitoring your analytics and asking the right questions about your search engine optimization campaign, you will never fall for these types of scams.  And most importantly, if you are seeing traffic increases to your website but your phone still isn’t ringing, you had better be asking the question ‘why’?

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our SEO series .

 

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SEO Scam #10

Date posted: October 6, 2010

“You can be a part of our network of clients!”

rusty-links

We frequently talk to our clients about short-term gains vs. long-term benefits.  Consumers don’t realize many tactics used by their SEO

company is focused on the short-term.  Don’t be confused by what I’m saying here:  Search Engine Optimization is a long-term commitment that requires a lot of work.  But you should be certain that if you’re paying your SEO company good money, the tactics they use should not be temporary, or dependent upon your continued relationship with them.

Some SEO companies target a specific industry, such as realtors, and begin building a network of realty clients across the country.  They add a “Resource” or “Links” page to each of the realtors’ websites and list all of their clients on that page, linking to each others’ websites.

Each realtor website would contain a page similar to the simplified example below:

Here are affiliated realtors throughout North America who provide great realty services:

  • Mary is the best Dallas realtor.
  • John is the best Phoenix realtor.
  • Tom is the best Los Angeles realtor.

As we have discussed in the past, having other websites link to your website will help your rankings, and is especially important to the Google algorithm.  But the practice described above is frowned upon by Google and they have been taking steps to eradicate such schemes.  So, if you’re Mary, John or Tom Realtor featured above, you’re living on borrowed time because as Google continually adjusts their algorithm their websites will eventually be devalued.

But here is an even more important point:  If Mary, John or Tom Realtor stop paying their SEO company, the first thing their SEO company is going to do is remove their links from their entire network of websites.  That means they paid all that money to their SEO company to simply “rent” links from the SEO company’s network of websites, and as soon as they stop paying the SEO company they will “take all their toys and go home” as they say.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: As a business owner, does it make more sense to spend thousands of dollars on a short-term strategy that won’t work in the near future, or to spend your budget developing engaging content for your website and social media platforms that will attract an audience and make your website more sticky and position you as an expert in your field?

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our Series.

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Webtivity’s New Website Launched

Date posted: October 1, 2010

It’s Here!

It’s been a long time coming… but we have re-launched the new Webtivity website!  Over 600 hours of development time went in

to developing a streamlined,  HTML5-coded, lean, mean sales machine!

We hope you enjoy it, because quite frankly we’re tired of staring at it (LOL!)

Let us know what you think, and a big THANK YOU to all our loyal Webtivity customers who inspire us and keep us going.  Many of you have redesigned your websites multiple times with us over the years, and we have been excited to help you grow, expand and reinvent yourselves.  We look forward to continuing our relatioships with all of you.

Your Internet Marketing Company,
The Webtivity Team
www.webtivitydesigns.com

 

 

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1 Day To Launch of New Webtivity Designs Website

Date posted: September 30, 2010



1 day to the launch of our new
Webtivity Designs website at webtivitydesigns.com.




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United Way Climbing for Dollars – Video & Photos

Date posted: September 29, 2010

 

“Local people creating local change”

Fundraising for this event has been closed;

Thank you to everyone who donated to the campaign!

Each year the United Way of Manatee County enlists members of the community to participate in the Climbing for Dollars fundraising campaign.  The annual event is the brainchild of Tom Seguin, Master Gemologist and owner of Suncoast Gem Lab in Bradenton.  This year climbers flew to Boulder, Colorado and tackled a 1,000 ft. climb on the Flatirons, located on the east slope of Green Mountain.  Climbers donate their time, airfare, hotel and lodging expenses and solicit sponsorships from area residents and businesses.   Our efforts raise money each year to support the United Way of Manatee County’s five focus areas:

  • Food & Shelter
  • Intervention & Prevention for Abuse & Violence
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Services for People with Disabilities, the Elderly & their Caregivers
  • Youth Development

Enjoy the photos and video from our trip, and a big Thank You to those who supported my climb.

More photos and videos will be added soon!

Click to View VideoClick to View Photo Slideshow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information:


Angela Moore, Director of Marketing & Events

Main Office:

1701 Tamiami Trail

Bradenton, FL 34205

Phone: (941) 748-1313

uwmc.net

climbing4dollarsmanatee.com

 

 

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Countdown to Launch of New Webtivity Designs Website

Date posted: September 24, 2010



7 Days to the launch of our new Webtivity Designs website at webtivitydesigns.com.






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SEO Scam #9

Date posted: September 22, 2010

“We have software that automatically writes copy for your website!”

In case you haven’t learned this lesson in life yet, I hate to be the one to break it to you: shortcuts often come at a high cost.  This shortcut your SEO company may be taking is no exception.  As you may be aware, Google knows if you copy text from other websites and place it on your website.  Besides copyright issues, it also harms your website rankings.  When search engines find the duplicate content on your website it is identified as such, and the original source of that text gets credit for it.  You get zip, zilch, zero.

Writing copy for your website isn’t easy, and it’s time consuming.  Especially if you’re trying to write copy that is not only SEO-friendly, but is also designed to show value in your services and convert website visitors into customers.   People online who advertise cheap copywriting services may be outsourcing your project overseas or they may be using software that recycles content.  (FYI: this is why your copy doesn’t sound quite right when it comes back to you.)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out”?  There are software programs available that will take text you copy from other websites, reorder and recycle the copy, and regurgitate what is supposed to be new “legitimate” copy.  Unfortunately the search engines are smart enough to recognize this has been done and your website will suffer as a result.

We have been showing you throughout this series there are a lot of shortcuts and sales jobs that are espoused in the SEO industry.  At the end of the day you end up spending a lot of money on something that either will not help you or will harm your rankings… or worse get your website banned from the search engines altogether!  All the time you spend with illegitimate or under-qualified companies working on your website means lost potential revenue.  Hire an SEO company who will take the time to do things right and keep you informed along the way.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our Series.

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SEO Scam #8

Date posted: September 15, 2010
“We’ll give you a free trial!”

This is a scary one.  Search engine optimization entails a lot of work.  There is no one in their right mind who would give it away for free, especially at the beginning of your campaign.   There is a ton of research, analysis and setup required to get your campaign underway, so why would anyone risk doing all that work and then allow you to walk away with no commitment?

In order for someone to perform SEO services on your website, they must have access to very sensitive information.  And if you’re not very technically saavy, you may give away information you shouldn’t.  An SEO company needs to have “FTP access” to your website files, which means you’re placing your entire website in their hands.  You’d better trust them before giving them access- protect your website with as much fervor as you protect your social security number!

However, for this scam the dubious company may also ask you for access to your database and registrar account.  Now you’ve given them all your customer data and control of your web address too.  This is not necessary for SEO services!  You’ve just handed them the keys to your entire business and offered to help them carry the cash register out the door!  And if you’re working with a company outside of the U.S. you will have no recourse when they steal your website, database, customer information and domain name.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.
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Brand consistency

Date posted: September 9, 2010

Bear Creek Veterinary Alternatives is a holistic vet in Sarasota that combines conventional veterinary medicine with holistic approaches such as acupuncture, herbal treatments, homeopathy and more.  Before coming to Webtivity for web design services they already had brochures, business cards and other print collateral designed.  It was imperative to use their existing imagery and develop a website around their branding to maintain consistency.

Bear Creek’s philosophy is rooted in the ancient belief that all things are interconnected including our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and that of our animal companions. Their deep love, appreciation and respect for nature are reflected in the website.  That same philosophy should resonate throughout all of your branding to interconnect your advertising efforts and help reinforce your brand in the minds of your customers.

 

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SEO Scam #7

Date posted: September 8, 2010

“You got 10,000 Hits this month!”

Some of you may remember those old “Hit Counters” that used to be on the bottom of every website.  Ever wonder why Hit Counters went away?  Because it’s not a useful SEO metric!  You should be tracking the number of “Unique Visitors” to your website, not Hits.  That’s because a single Unique Visitor can rack up multiple Hits.

A Unique Visitor is one person coming to your website that has either never been there before, or hasn’t been there in a while.  A “Hit” is  a measure of a hit on your web server, not your website.  There are many things that can create a Hit on your web server when someone Visits your website:  graphic elements, photos, HTML files, java applets, etc.

So if you have 15 separate elements on your Home page, and 1 person Visits your Home page, it will rack up 16 Hits.  So you can see where an SEO company would want to report Hits to you (because it makes it look like they’re doing a wonderful job) and why you want to track Visits (because it is a more helpful metric in understanding how many people are coming to your website.)

There are many other metrics you should be monitoring with the traffic analytics your SEO company provides, such as Bounce Rate, Pageviews, Time on Site, etc.  These other metrics will help you understand how Visitors are responding to your website once they get there, but understanding the basic Visits vs. Hits metrics will give you a better idea of how much traffic you’re getting to your website.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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Great customer service – from Verizon??

Date posted: September 2, 2010

Thank you Sofia!

The last few weeks have been frantic– workshops, conferences and fundraisers on top of our already busy schedule.  And in the middle of it all I dropped my phone, cracked the front faceplate and it started acting funny.  I had been eyeing the new Droid Incredible anyway, so I decided it was time for an upgrade.  But the thought of having to go to a Verizon Wireless store sent shivers down my busy spine.  Now mind you, I don’t want to single out Verizon, because  if you mention any telecom or cable company I’m pretty sure you won’t get an overwhelmingly positive reaction from anyone.Thank you Sofia!

First I went to the Verizon Wireless store nearest my home.  I was told they didn’t have any Droid Incredibles in stock but I would receive a call the next day.  The next day came and went and I didn’t receive a call.  So on my lunch hour the following day I went to the Verizon Wireless store closest to my office.  I was told that yes, they had them in stock, but since I was an existing customer they couldn’t offer it to me at the advertised price.  In fact, it would be more than twice the advertised price.  Because I was an existing customer?  HUH?  No wonder there is no customer loyalty any more!  The longer you are a customer, the more you get #&@*$&!

When I got back to the office grumpy and frustrated one of my co-workers suggested I go to the Verizon Wireless store on University Parkway in Sarasota because they heard it was the most helpful location in the area.  They gave a phone # to me and told me to call.  I called the # and talked to Sofia, who apologized for my experience and within a few minutes told me she could have a Droid Incredible delivered to their store without a problem.  And it would indeed be at the advertised cost.  She even called me back to tell me what time my phone would arrive at their store!

What I didn’t realize at the time was the phone # my co-worker gave me was actually for the Verizon Wireless kiosk inside BJ’s across the street from the University Parkway location.  After a detour I finally got to Sofia and we had a great conversation, she was extremely helpful and she seemed to genuinely care about the ridiculous experiences I had at the other stores.  Best of all she helped me get an awesome deal on my Droid–plus a $50 BJ’s gift card!

I highly recommend Sofia to anyone looking for a Verizon Wireless store anywhere near the Sarasota area!

We all tell people about our terrible customer service experiences, so I wanted to take the opportunity to tell everyone about a refreshing positive customer experience I had.  Hopefully this inspires everyone to pay-it-forward and be more active in promoting the good people and businesses that still exist in our world.

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SEO Scam #6

Date posted: September 1, 2010

“Buy expired domains and point them at your website!”

This tactic is frowned upon by the search engines, and Google has vociferously announced their displeasure with this tactic and their plans to change their algorithm to combat it.  The reason it works is because as a website builds history and “trust” with the search engines, it becomes more powerful.  When that website links to another website, it paases some of that power (or “link juice” as some in our industry call it) over to the other website.

Fast forward to the day that business closes its doors and liquidates its assets, including its website and web address.  If a company purchases that web address and “301 redirects” (permanently redirects) it to their own website, the search engines will automatically pass all that trust and good will to them.  TripAdvisor allegedly notoriously used this tactic early on.

Does it work?  The short answer is currently yes.  Is it a good long-term strategy?  Since the search engines are aware it is happening and don’t like it, simple speculation suggests it won’t be long before they shift their algorithms to prevent its effectiveness.  Purchasing these domains can be expensive, and you can pay thousands of dollars for one.  As a business owner, does it make more sense to spend thousands of dollars on a short-term strategy that won’t work in the near future, or to spend your budget developing engaging content for your website and social media platforms that will attract an audience and make your website more sticky and position you as an expert in your field? I suppose it depends on which SEO company you ask.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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SEO Scam #5

Date posted: August 25, 2010

“I know someone at Google!”

Really?  You know someone at Google?  And they feed you proprietary information??  Even though engineers and employees in-the-know at search engine companies sign strict non-disclosure agreements?  And even though they would go to jail for disclosing company trade secrets, they still give you that information??  Wow, what a pal!!

True story time:  I used to make a daily morning stop at my local independently owned coffee shop for one of the best café con leche’s on the planet (before the bad economy hit and swept them out of business.)  Every morning I would see this guy sitting on his laptop doing everything from playing World of Warcraft to reading email to surfing New Egg for the latest gadget deal.

One morning he overheard the owner ask me how business was doing in the internet marketing world, and he looked up over his laptop and said, “Hey, I own my own SEO company!”

“No kidding”, I said.

“Yeah, I’ve been really successful too” he said, as he stroked his unkempt beard and muffin crumbs fell onto his laptop keyboard.

“No kidding”, I said.

“Yeah but I’m lucky because I have a friend who works for Yahoo and he keeps me up to date on everything that’s going on.”

“No kidding”, I said as I grabbed my world’s finest café con leche and headed out the door.

I miss those café con leche’s almost as much as I miss business integrity…

 

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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The Importance of Video and Internet Marketing

Date posted: August 20, 2010

YouTube was launched in 2005, and Google bought them in 2006 for over $1.6 billion.  Two years later Hulu was launched, a service that allows users to watch TV programs and movies.  The way we interact with the Internet has changed drastically as broadband connections become more prevalent across the United States.  There were over 84,000,000 broadband subscribers in the U.S. in 2009, approximately 28% of the total U.S. population.  Make no mistake about it, your television and the Internet are becoming Lapensee showroom videoone.  That is why we have been encouraging our clients for years to think about integrating video into their websites.  It is a great way to help you stand out above your competitors and present your sales messaging in a more interesting way.  Click the graphic above to see how LaPensee Plumbing and Pools took advantage of video to show off Manatee County’s only “living showroom”.

Online competition is fierce, and the use of video is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your industry.  With a strong Internet marketing company at your side, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.

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SEO Scam #4 (Part 2)

Date posted: August 18, 2010

“We will get you in all the foreign search engines!”

Last week we looked at a common spam email that has been circulating the Internet for years and discussed the fact that Google only has one index.  So if you are in Google in the U.S., you are in Google Spain, Google Germany, etc. This week we are going to look at directly promoting your business online to specific countries, and what it takes to do it right.  You will quickly see it is a lot more complex than what the scammers and spammers would have you believe.

Buy A Domain: The first thing to consider is whether you can buy a country-specific top-level-domain for the country you want to target.  For sake of argument let’s say you want to target consumers in Brazil.  If your current domain is google.com, then you would want to buy google.com.br.  But if you don’t have a physical office in Brazil, the government of Brazil will not allow you to purchase that domain.  (Cue sad trombone: wah, wah, wah…..)  If you do have a physical office location then you are on your way.  Google will typically give country-specific domains preference in their results because they believe they are more relevant to the searcher.  Makes sense, right?

Hosting: Google knows where your website is hosted.  If your website is hosted in the United States and your audience is doing a search on Google Brazil, that would devalue your website in Google’s results.  That means you are going to have to find a respectable hosting partner in Brazil.  That can be tricky depending on which countries you are targeting.  Between your web development company and your staff in Brazil, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Targeting Your Audience: This is where most businesses fall short when trying to target an audience outside of the United States.  Using Babelfish or some other automated translation tool will not adequately target your audience.  It will be blatantly clear to your audience that you either do not have the staff who speak their native language, or you don’t care that your website is not targeted to them.  Have your website professionally translated for your audience– I mean, properly targeting your audience is Marketing 101, is it not?  This in of itself can get pretty complex if you are targeting a country like China which has up to 13 main regional groups of spoken languages, each of which are completely unintelligible to one another.

As you can see, getting on the “foreign search engines” has far-reaching implications.  It is not as easy as someone submitting your website to a secret place it has never been submitted before.  As with all marketing it takes appropriate planning, thought and the right group of experts to help you break into a new market!

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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SEO Scam #4 (Part 1)

Date posted: August 11, 2010

“We will get you in all the foreign search engines!”

This is a complex topic that requires some extra attention so I am going to break this discussion into two posts.  Here I am going to primarily focus on a spam email that has been making its rounds across the Internet for years.  It is convincing enough that from time to time our clients forward it to us and ask, “Is this something we should be focusing on?”  The short answer is that if you’re indexed in U.S. search engines, you’re already on “foreign search engines”.  Your SEO company didn’t have to lift a finger to make this happen.  The long answer will be in next week’s post.

Here’s how the spam email goes:

“I am Dr. Marc Schneider and I work for xxxx Search Engine Optimization Inc. in Washington DC  (Tel: 1-202-xxx-xxxx) – I would like to speak with the person in charge of your international clientele. Who is my contact? Who should I speak to??

In fact, after visiting https://www.webtivitydesigns.com, I have noticed that your website cannot be found on foreign search engines (I tested it on Hispanic search engines, German search engines, Asian search engines, etc.) Our company is specialized in multilingual search engine promotions in 28 languages . From the Japanese Google to the German Yahoo, from the AOL  in Spanish to the MSN in Chinese, we can show you how to develop a true international online presence by promoting your website on foreign search engines.”

….and it goes on from there.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: The first rule of thumb is to ignore unsolicited emails from sources with whom you are unfamiliar;  9.99 times out of 10 it is spam and/or a scam.  As mentioned above, if your website is indexed in U.S. search engines, you are indexed in the “foreign” versions too.

Let’s try a  little exercise.  Go to the various country-specific versions of Google below and search for your company.  Since Google only has one “index”, if your website is indexed in the U.S. it is indexed in other countries as well:

Google France

Google Germany

Google Spain

Next week we will delve into the topic of marketing your company globally in more detail to keep you from falling for this common SEO scam.  Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

 

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Shorewalk Vacation Villas launches a new website

Date posted: August 6, 2010

Shorewalk Vacation Villas is located in Bradenton FL and has been providing self-catering condos and vacation rentals since 1988. Shorewalk offers over 250 fully furnished 2bed/2bath condos on 30 acres  conveniently located in the heart of Brandenton. Shorewalk can also cater to corporate guests and large groups traveling to the area.

Rob Ondo, the Director of Marketing & Business Development for Shorewalk, worked closely with our team throughout the design and development of the new Shorewalk website. After our initial project discussions, it became clear the website needed to be very features-based and promote tangible benefits.  To promote better online booking conversions,  the new website features strong call-to-action, with the online booking area prominently placed for website visitors.  To promote repeat business, Shorewalk instituted a loyalty program which offers a chance to win a free 2 night stay.



Mr. Ondo and the Shorewalk owners are very excited about the launch of their newly redesigned website.  It has only been a short time since re-launch and this is what Mr. Ondo had to say:

“The new Shorewalk website designed by Webtivity has already generated rave reviews from our guests.   The new fresh look has increased business as we have seen former guests return to see first hand the property improvements.  I would highly encourage any property looking to enhance their website to utilize the services of Webtivity and their talented team.  The project was a seamless transition from start to finish.”

Take a minute and visit the Shorewalk website and see what they have to offer!

About the Author: Brian Dubil is a website designer for
Webtivity Design Solutions in Bradenton, FL.

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Business Owners can respond to reviews in Google Maps Listings

Date posted: August 5, 2010

Google Places Respond to ReviewThere are two sides to every story, and now Business Owners can share their side. In the  Google LatLong Blog, Google announced the ability for Business Owners to respond to reviews in their Google Maps listing, such as this one for Adventure Kayak Outfitters offering Sarasota Kayak Tours.

Google Local Search listings are showing up for more search queries everyday, and users are making buying decisions from those local reviews. Now Business Owners can respond publicly, resolving negative reviews, and thanking customers for positive.

Currently Business Owners can only respond to reviews left at the Google Maps listing, any review pulled in from third-party sites do not offer the option to respond.

To respond to any reviews with your business:

  1. You must first claim your Google Local Listing.
  2. Once you have claimed your local listing login to your Google Places account
  3. Visit your local listing
  4. In the reviews section click “Respond publicly as the owner”
  5. Fill out your response and click publish.


About the Author:  James Moore is the Internet Marketing Director for Webtivity Design Solutions in Bradenton, FL.



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United Way Rock Climbing for Dollars campaign

Date posted: August 2, 2010

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am participating in the 3rd Annual Rock Climbing for Dollars campaign, a fundraiser sponsored by the United Way of Manatee County.  Our company has sponsored the official event website each year since 2008.  I agreed last year to become a climber and help raise funds for the United Way of Manatee County.

United Way of Manatee CountyYou can learn more by visiting my personal website, the official Climbing for Dollars website, or you can make a donation by visiting the United Way of Manatee County website.

If you have questions about this great event, corporate sponsorships, how to make donations, or how to become a climber for next year’s event, please contact:

United Way of Manatee County
Angela Moore
amoore@uwmc.net
941.748.1313

Thank you for your support!
Sincerely,
Troy Newport

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SEO Scam #3

Date posted: July 28, 2010

“We submit your website to 1000’s of search engines!”

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  Until you realize there are only a few places you have to submit a new website when it is launched.

The major search engines supply most other search engines (e.g., Dogpile, AltaVista, AOL, etc.) with their search results.   For the sake of argument, let’s call Google, Yahoo and Bing the “major” search engines.  Now that Microsoft has partnered with Yahoo, Bing will actually be providing the results for Yahoo searches.  While this cool little “search engine decoder” is out of date, it shows you origins of search results.

So, you can see that while an SEO company can tout  “We submit your website to 1000’s of search engines!” and it sounds impressive, it is not necessary. Once you submit your website to a few key places the rest of the search engines will automatically pick it up.  It is simply a marketing ploy.

I suppose this is an appropriate place to also mention that  “resubmitting” your website to Google is not beneficial to your rankings.   Once you have been indexed by search engines, they will automatically come back on a routine basis and recrawl your website.  If resubmitting your website will help you sleep at night then go ahead and rest well, but Google says it isn’t necessary.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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SEO Scam #2

Date posted:

“We don’t have to make any changes to your website!”

This is a favorite of “Blog spammers”.  They take your money and then spam links to your website on Blogs and other websites that allow comments or postings.  There are even Blog spammers who use automated programs to post links.  Yes, that’s right– you pay them all that money and then they just click a button and let an automated program run while they go to the beach. 

At the end of the month they show you a report of how many websites they have linked to you and tell you how hard they have been working….  but at the end of the day they are actually doing more harm than good to your website.  Google is very aware of these practices, and de-value these types of links coming into your website.  These practices can harm the “trust” of your website and impair your rankings!

The screenshot at right is a cropped view of a comments area on a prominent law school Blog that has not properly controlled and moderated their postings.   It shows how spammers set up accounts using their target keywords (e.g., “Villa In Bali”) and link out of the comments area to their websites.

The whole idea of link building should be getting your website linked on quality, trustworthy websites that can also drive qualified traffic to your website.  If your links are coming from spammy Blogs and porn sites (yes, that’s another bad tactic used in our industry) then you’re wasting valuable time and money.

So when an SEO company tells you they can “rank you #1 without making any changes to your website!” you can tell them the very first thing an SEO company should do for you is clean up the architecture of your website and optimize the content (text) and Meta tags on your website… because Google says so.

Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.


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A Comforting Attorney Website Design

Date posted: July 23, 2010

North Port Law Firm of Attorney James Keim, P.A. is a new law firm to the city of North Port, Florida focusing on personal injury, bankruptcy and divorce. As a new attorney to the area, Mr. Keim realized his marketing efforts needed to be efficient as well as convey a professional image of competence and trust. Because of the nature of his expertise, he also understood the stress of his potential clients and challenged Webtivity Designs to create a comforting image rather than the typical clichéd attorney designs so common on the web.

Our website design team worked closely with attorney James Keim to build a website that made him feel more approachable through carefully selected imagery and soothing shades of blue. Since the website was not going to have the usual intimidating gavels, courtrooms and dark colors, we stressed with James the importance of keywords and phrases shown prominently. We also added more focus to the navigation area to enforce the purpose of the North Port Law Firm’s website.

Since the launch of NorthPortLawFirm.com earlier this week, attorney James Keim has already had a significant positive response:

“Frankly, it turned out better than I ever imagined it to be.  I have been receiving calls and have booked three appointments since Monday — all from the website.”

We are excited to continue working with North Port Law Firm of Attorney James Keim, P.A. on his marketing materials including new stationary and business cards, as well as future plans for search engine optimization and marketing.

An Internet Marketing Company

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SEO Scam #1

Date posted: July 21, 2010


“We’ll have you on the first page of Google in a week!”

Companies that promise this are being disingenuous at best.  Typically the way they do this is either by getting you placed in the Google Places (Maps) area, or they put you in the Sponsored Links (Pay-Per-Click) area.  While having your website listed in these areas can be helpful, getting your website listed in these areas isn’t the definition of Search Engine Optimization.  (Click picture to see the anatomy of a Google Results page.)
Google Results Page
Pay-Per-Click falls in the Search Engine Marketing category and is a very different animal from SEO.  No one should be running this type of campaign for you and calling it “SEO”.  It is important to note here that running a Pay-Per-Click campaign in Google does not impact your SEO.  Can it drive more traffic to your website?  Sure.  Can it be a critical tool in your campaign?  Absolutely.  But it has no bearing on where you are placed in the Organic Results.  Don’t believe me?  Google tells you right here:  Google’s advertising programs are independent of our search results.

If a company is truly performing Search Engine Optimization services for you, they are supposed to be getting your website listed in the Organic Results area.  This simply takes time.  Depending on the age of your website, competitiveness of your business, and the competitiveness of the keywords you are targeting, it can take months for your website to get ranked well organically.  And once you get there you have to continue working at it, because your competitors are concentrating resources on their campaigns.

So make sure when hiring a company for Search Engine Optimization services that you understand what a reputable company should be doing for you by familiarizing yourself with the tricks of the trade.  Watch our Facebook page for the next installment of our series.

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The Misinformation Highway

Date posted: July 14, 2010

seo scams are bad for our industryRecently I had a discussion with a few prominent attorneys in the Tampa Bay area.  They were lamenting how the Internet has allowed sub-par, sub-standard attorneys to not only survive, but thrive.  One joked painfully that some attorneys in the area would need directions to the courthouse.  But because they are well positioned online and have information on their websites seemingly designed to mislead an average reader, they have garnered more market share than many honest, better-credentialed attorneys. I was told it has become a numbers game for some attorneys, and they burn through as many clients as they possibly can, providing minimal attention and services, further giving people in their industry a bad name.

Throughout the conversation I found my head shaking in the affirmative.  Not because I have any inside knowledge of the legal field, but because I have this same conversation with business owners in almost every other industry I come in contact with.

Painfully, this type of behavior seems especially rampant in my industry.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seems to be ripe for fraud.  Individuals and companies prey on the public’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the Internet and technology in general.  It not only gives our industry a bad name, but it also makes it very difficult for companies like ours to operate honestly.  Try sitting in a meeting with a potential client who has heard “we’ll get you on the first page of Google in 2 weeks or less!” everywhere they turn.  Then start explaining that the most credible, effective SEO campaign is a long-term strategy that takes time and a fair amount of effort.

A (false) promise of immediate gratification vs. a guarantee of hard work.  It’s a tough sell, isn’t it?  Especially in today’s society.  Everyone wants an immediate, painless solution with overnight results.

What you may not know is that the geniuses at Google have purposely adapted their algorithm to prevent websites from ranking quickly.  Too many people have tried to “fool” Google into artificially ranking their websites so Google has consistently upgraded their algorithm over the years to be as foolproof as possible.  Why?  I can name twenty-three billion reasons why.  That’s what Google’s total revenue was for 2009: $23,000,000,000.  The reason they make that much money is because they provide us with the world’s best search results.  And they are going to protect the integrity of their search results (and $23 billion in revenue) at all costs.  So when someone tells you they can “rank your website in 2 weeks or less!” think about the situation logically.

So, my attorney friends have inspired me to fight fire with fire.  There is too much misinformation out there, so over the next few weeks I will be adding posts here about some of the most common Internet and SEO scams we see every day.  Hopefully with some education and common sense explanations I can help clear the air in an otherwise murky industry.  Watch our Facebook page for updates to this post.

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Webtivity Design Solutions – Small Business of the Year Finalist

Date posted: June 6, 2010

Last week the Manatee Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2010 Manatee Small Business of the Year Awards.  Even though we didn’t win one of the five awards, I am proud to say that of all the businesses in Manatee County Webtivity Design Solutions was one of 74 nominees and named one of the 23 finalists. I would like to congratulate all of the finalists and the following 2010 winners:

  • Ezra Fine Foods, Dr. Donna Eason
  • Polo Grill and Bar and Fete Catering, Tommy & Jaymie Klauber
  • The Trophy Case, Don Ide
  • Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc., David E. Sessions
  • Gator Plumbing, Inc., William Smock (Paul Bartley Community Award winner)

In addition, I would like to thank the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the panel of judges, my staff, and whoever nominated us.  Just the fact that someone nominated us and that we made it to the finals is a great testament to my team.  It is their outstanding talent, integrity, and customer service that resulted in the nomination in the first place.  While I am very proud of being a 2010 Manatee Small Business of the Year Finalist, I am even more proud of my team!

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Port Manatee Wins Four Marketing & Communication Awards

Date posted: June 4, 2010


Congratulations to Port Manatee on winning four top marketing and communications awards from the Transportation Marketing and Communications Association (TMCA) and the Hermes Creative Awards.


According to the Port Manatee Deepwater E-Newsletter, “The TMCA Compass Award is the highest level of professional acknowledgement within marketing and communications in today’s transportation marketplace.  The Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals for creative professionals involved in concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media.  This year’s Hermes competition attracted more than 3,600 entries from corporate marketing and communication departments, public relations firms and advertising agencies.”

Congratulations to our own Webtivity designers Amanda Pasko and Matt Scott for designing and developing the award winning website for Port Manatee!

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Tips on Internet Protection

Date posted: April 21, 2010

Yesterday PC World published an article on drug dealers hacking Gmail accounts and using them to send spam email.  Unfortunately since they hack into actual accounts, the spam appears to be sent by the owners of the accounts.  You may be asking how they get access to your email account.  Well most of the time it is a malicious program or a phishing scheme that gets your log-in credentials.  Here are some tips from Webtivity Designs to help keep you safe.

  1. Anti-virus Program: If you don’t have one, get one.  If you can’t afford one, check out our Facebook post on 10 free anti-virus programs.
  2. Anti-virus Program Updates: Keep your program up-to-date. New threats are found everyday so you need to keep your virus definitions updated. Most programs have an automatic update feature. Turn it on and leave it on!
  3. Operating System Updates: Keep your operating system (Windows, MAC, etc.) updated.  Updates are regularly available to patch operating system vulnerabilities to prevent malicious programs from gaining access.  Turn on your automatic updates and let it keep your system updated.
  4. Browser Updates: Same as with operating systems, your browser must be updated to maximize your protection.  Again setup automatic updates so your don’t have to worry about it.
  5. Strong Passwords: Using information that is readily available is what hackers want you to do. Using names, birthdays, addresses, etc. are the first passwords hackers try.  Create a strong password.  See the password tips that we posted previously.
  6. Phishing Protection: A phishing site is a site created to look like a legitimate company’s website, but its only purpose is to capture your log-in information.  They often will send you a legitimate looking email with a link to their fake site.  Make sure you are on a company’s real site before entering your password.  To be sure, go to the site by entering in their URL instead of clicking on the link. Browsers and anti-virus programs usually have phishing site detection, but it really only protects you from phishing sites that have already been reported.
  7. Point & Peek Before You Click: Before you click on a link, point at it and look at the bottom left corner of your browser window.  You will see the URL of the site to which you will be sent.  Make sure that URL is where you expect to go.  If you don’t recognize it, don’t click.  Again go to the real site by typing in the real URL in the browser yourself.
  8. Common Sense: Use common sense.  If an email contains an offer that is too good to true, it’s probably is a scam or phishing email.

The internet is a great resource.  Just be safe when using it.

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Congratulations to Sato Real Estate & Sand Dollar!

Date posted: April 13, 2010

The winners of the Anna Maria Island Sun Readers Choice Awards 2010 have been announced.  Congratulations to two of our Webtivity Design Solution clients, Sato Real Estate & Sand Dollar, on winning multiple awards.  Sato Real Estate has won Reader Choice Awards for four years straight. Sand Dollar has won every year since 2002!

 


Sato Real Estate
519 Pine Avenue
Anna Maria, FL
www.SatoRealEstate.com

#1 Real Estate Company
#1 Vacation Rental Company
#1 Real Estate Associate – Liza Morrow

 

 

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Tips: Zoom Shortcut

Date posted: November 16, 2009

How did you learn to use the computer?
If like most, you learned on your own picking up things here and there. Well there are many shortcuts or tips to make your computer and internet experience easier and safer.
So here is one tip for you: Text on a page too small and hard to read?
Hold down key and hit the <+> key to zoom in.
Use <-> to zoom out.
Use <0> to return to your normal setting.
Works well with Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Adobe Reader. For Internet Explorer, when I tried it the <+> & <-> worked, but not the <0>. Try it with your browser or program. For those of us over 40, no more cleaning nose prints off our monitor!
Got a favorite computer, internet, or other tip. Please share it with us!

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