GoogleApps

Who doesn’t have a Gmail account? Google’s popular email service is no longer only for personal email. The folks at Google offer Google Apps, which gives you all the features of Gmail, but with your own domain name.

Huh? So imagine I have a pet sitting service called See Spot Sit, and I use a Gmail account to handle all communications for this pet sitting service business. Perhaps the email is something like SeeSpotSit@gmail.com. My business picks up and I now have a super awesome website, SeeSpotSit.com. I want to look really legit, and I hear that using email from my domain name can help me gain that legitimacy. Adding email through my web site hosting service can be, frankly, ghetto. Email services are typically an afterthought for many web hosting companies. So I sign up for Google Apps for Business. Now I can have email accounts like YoDawg@SeeSpotSit.com or LeashLover@SeeSpotSit.com, and they all run with the same gears and cogs that power Gmail.

Entrepreneur magazine calls Google Apps “an all-in-one office software product businesses would actually pay for.” You can take all those tools you use from Google – email, calendar, documents and such – and slap your brand on it. Inc.com touts Google Apps’ ability to make workflow more fluid without the cost of purchasing and installing software.

Google Apps comes in two sizes: Google Apps and Google Apps for Business. Plain old Google Apps is free, but you are limited to 10 users and 7 GB of email storage per person. Google Apps for Business comes with a fee, but you get unlimited users, 25 GB of storage per account and tech support from Google. Entrepreneur recommends the business plan for those requiring a lot of tech support, anyone migrating from server-based solutions or businesses who need to keep a tight leash on record keeping and compliance.

So I’ve convinced you that Google Apps is the way to go? Sweet. Now comes the fun part: using it.

PopSugar shares some “life changing” Gmail tips and tricks that you can use in Google Apps. Here are a few you can use when you log into your email using a browser (it is a little different if you use email programs like Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook):

  • Mass Unsubscribe

    groupon-unsubscribeBanish those pesky emails once and for all with services like Unroll.me, or check out the handy “unsubscribe” button next to the sender’s address.
  • Undo Send

    Mayday! I sent something I shouldn’t have, or I meant to BCC my bowling league and instead I CC’d them.  Click the gear icon on the top right to open your settings. Under the “labs” tab, enable “undo send.” Gaffe be gone!
  • Add Emails to Tasks

    Google-tasksSorting through your email takes a lot of time and energy. If you adhere to the “one-touch rule” you should only process an email one time, not read it then return to it when you’re ready to take action. In the upper left, click the Mail dropdown and open your Tasks. This will create a small window with a checklist. Add emails to your task list, open the More dropdown menu and add that email to your tasks. Now you can navigate through your Aunt Irma’s email forwards and keep track of your to-do list.
  • Set up filters

    Google-addTaskMake your email do work for you. You can set up email filters to automatically sort mail into folders. Open an email you’d like to automatically filter in the future. In the More dropdown, select “filter messages like these.” Then you can create the filter (either a keyword, or messages with attachments, you name it – literally).

Google is constantly improving Gmail and Google Apps features. Once you start, it will be hard to imagine your business communications life before Google. Cube Creative Design can help you get started. Contact us to learn more.

domain-master

 

Perhaps the most important piece of real estate you can own is your domain name. It is the address at which every potential customer will find you, and it can have huge implications on your marketing strategy.

What is a domain name?

The domain name is a URL registered to a specific person or business. For instance, google.com is registered to Google and no one else can use google.com but Google.

When should I look for domain names?

In an ideal world, the search for the perfect domain name should happen before you’ve named your business. Otherwise you’ll have to phenagle a domain name around what has already been registered, potentially losing site visitors in the process.

For instance, if I am starting a landscaping company and I want to name it Quality Landscaping, I wouldn’t be able to register qualitylandscaping.com or qualitylandscaping.net because those domains are already taken. I’d have to get creative to come up with a domain name that is both easy to remember and won’t be mistaken for another business.

What should I look for when choosing a domain name?

Entrepreneur’s Jane Porter details the do’s and don’ts of registering a domain name:

  • Include keywords in the domain name if possible

    Google loves sites that seem the most relevant, and what can be more relevant than a domain name that includes the search keywords? Say I’m looking for a dentist in Hickory. A site that has those keywords in the domain name will look especially juicy to Google. If you can’t make it work, don’t worry. You can always use URL strings to get in those keywords (like mysite.com/hickory-dentist).
  • Treat the domain name as property

    Porter describes how one business didn’t register itself as the domain owner, and it took years and lots of cash to get the rights back to a domain that originally cost $15. Treat your domain name registration as you would a deed to your business office.
  • Remember to renew your domain registration

    The only thing worse than a squatter sitting on a perfect domain name is having someone buy your domain name out from under you because you forgot to renew the registration. Most registrations are for 1 year periods, and cost less than $20 to renew with ICANN, the official internet gatekeeper for domain names. However if you forget to renew that domain name anyone can take it. That can mean big trouble if you have an established website that you no longer control.
    This happened to a business just before they became a Cube Creative client. They weren’t able to renew their domain name before it expired and folks from China got it. They recreated the client’s old website on their own servers so it would look as if nothing had changed. It is a very underhanded way to spread viruses or phish for financial information from customers who have no idea the business was no longer in control of the site.
  • Check out other extensions beyond .com

    It is getting increasingly harder to find good domain names on the traditional .com extension, and there are quite a few other extensions that can serve you well. Running a non-profit? Using a .org extension may be the way to go. Name.Kitchen has a great page full of naming tools to help you get started.

With any good “do” list, there is also a few things to avoid:

  • Don’t use dashes, abbreviations or numbers

    Say I started Quality Landscaping and I registered quality-landscaping.com, knowing qualitylandscaping.com was not available. I do a great job and a customer refers me to their neighbor: “Hey man, check out Quality Landscaping dot com. They are great.” Did that customer include the hyphen? Probably not. Did you just lose a potential customer? Yep.
  • Don’t overlook the domain’s history

    Dirty domains can be business suicide online. Google blacklists domains if they are heinous offenders, and if that domain goes back out on the market it is very hard to convince search engines that it can be trusted. You’ll also want to look up potential trademarking issues. Check who.is to see what has been registered.
  • Don’t forget to look at similar domains

    Copycat sites or sites with very similar domain names can also pose a problem. One Cube Creative client owns Simply Luminaries. They registered simplyluminarias.com. But what happens if I go to simplyluminaries.com? Don’t do it. It bounces to a junk domain that has absolutely no relation to the legitimate business.

Bottom line:

If you can register the domains that will identify your business, do it and do it early. Otherwise you’re in for potentially years of headache and costs trying to reclaim your business identity online. Having trouble navigating the domain registration waters? Cube Creative Design is here to help! We can consult on domain names to consider and what to do if your ideal domain is already taken.

blog-evergreen

Do you wonder why in some search results, old pages tend to show up at the top even though they are relatively old? Aren’t we told that we should keep our content fresh to stay on top of search engine results?

Take a look at this example. Google "how to write a blog" and one of the top results is from March 2012. That's over 3 years old, which is like 100 years online!

evergreen seo

grampaContent marketing is the idea that we can use the content we create for our website to attract and convert potential customers into paying customers, then keep those paying customers. It is built on the premise of being relevant and visible to consumers. Some content needs to be fresh, hip and up-to-date. It is flashier, like that teenage cousin who shows up to Thanksgiving in stuff you threw out in the late ‘80s (Just stop it, shoulder pads).

But don’t forget about Grampa in the recliner. Ol’ Grampa has some good advice and knowledge to share, the kind that stays relevant for years, if not decades.

Grampa is what we content marketing folks call “evergreen content.” It is the content that is still relevant, or stays green despite the seasons. It is the content that you can write once and let it ride on your website for years without updating or rewriting.

Search Engine Journalroncoshared a few formats of evergreen content that can help you start cultivating your “set it and forget it” evergreen content:

  • How-To Guides
  • Resource Lists
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Industry Definitions

Wordstream goes a bit further and adds product reviews and encyclopedia-type entries as types of evergreen content. The content doesn’t have to be written words, either. Some videos are a great way to incorporate evergreen content.

Now that we have a good idea of some things we can built as evergreen content, let’s talk about some best practices.

  1. Avoid Jargon & Technical Terms

    Almost all search engine experts agree that evergreen content is not intended for experts. It is easy to use jargon specific to your industry since you are fluent in that language. But for folks searching online for more information, that type of jargon can turn them off to your business. Be sure to write content for folks who don’t know what you’re talking about.
  2. Be Comprehensive

    Content Marketing Institute describes evergreen content as typically longer than the timely “news” types of posts. The longer length will allow you to build in more search engine keywords, elaborate on useful points or drive potential customers to reach out to your business for additional information, such as price estimates.
  3. Offer Freebies

    Everyone loves a freebie. It is a staple of the sales world, and a great way to help potential customers return to your business when they are ready to make a purchase. What are some freebies you can include on evergreen content? Consider downloadable checklists or informational graphics. Be sure to brand these downloadable freebies so folks will remember who gave it to them.
  4. KISS

    Keep it simple, stud. Have you ever opened a webpage and didn’t read it because it was too long? It happens all the time. Some clever millennial coined “TL;DR” for just that: “too long; didn’t read.” How do you keep those folks with short attention spans or lack of time to read your comprehensive evergreen content?There are a few ways to make it more digestible:
  • Use Infographics.
    Not only will infographics provide visual rest for eyes, but it allows people to nibble on the information you present without asking them to read pages of text. There are a few online infographic makers you can use for free that create very visually appealing graphics. Piktochart is a great one.
  • Use Multimedia.
    Add slideshows or videos that present the same information in different formats.
  • Use Subheadings and Lists.
  • Paragraphs are so boring, right? If you present the most relevant information in list format, then you’ll be more likely to catch attention from folks who skim for key information.

Content marketing may seem intimidating, but it is really all about serving your customers. You don’t have to do it alone! Cube Creative has a team of content marketing specialists who have years of experience. Contact us for help cultivating your content!

content curation

We’ve heard the phrase “content is king.” It makes perfect sense: people want information before they make decisions or form opinions. So where does this content originate? What happens if you’re not a writer or particularly good at marketing? What happens when your audience tunes you out?

Larger companies may have the resources to invest in an in-house content champion. Whether they are labeled as marketing, advertising, public relations or communications experts, they are all a form of content champion. Smaller companies may not have the resources to bring on an extra man, and this content champion is often the person who has a few moments at the end of a busy day to maybe give it a thought or two.

Regardless of whether you have the manpower to create your own branded content, there is a content bottleneck that prevents content from getting to customers as fast as you’d like. The top 4 challenges (from a 2014 B2B Content Marketing Institute) are a lack of time, inability to produce enough, inability to produce the right kind of content and a lack of budget.

Striking a Balance

Striking the right balance of content can be tricky. If you focus too heavily on self-promotion, folks may not think they are getting a straight story out of you.

“Face it,” Heidi Cohen said recently in her blog, “consumers just aren’t that into promotion unless they’re seeking a deal before buying. They can smell an ad a mile away. They’re blind and deaf to most ads regardless of where they appear.”

If you share irrelevant information, people will push you into the background noise they encounter every day. Either way, your message – and ultimately your business success – is lost.

What is Content Curation?

Adobe recently published a blog touting the power of content curation. Imagine a museum where interesting pieces are displayed for audiences. Did the museum create the pieces? Most likely not. However the museum curator found pieces they thought would best serve the message and shared those with visitors.

Similarly, content curation can help you meet customer needs, show your relevance and prevent content production bottlenecks.

“Potential customers want to feel that you can provide them with valuable content, regardless of the source,” Jeff Bullas wrote.

Getting Started

So how do you put content curation into practice? Here is a step-by-step guide to make your content reign supreme.

1. Get a Plan

First, think of where you serve content to your customers. Is it on your website (such as in a blog), or on your social media accounts? If you haven’t established a schedule of when to publish new content, get that settled first. Here is a good guide from Entrepreneur to get you started.

2. Get your Branded Content in Order

Content curation works best when it is mixed with your own company’s messages. Get those in order first, or at least get them in your workflow so they will be ready when you need them. What are some examples of original, branded content? Does your business run specials or promotions? What sets your business apart from competition? Does your business have a special connection to community organizations, such as schools or non-profits? Start gathering the text and photos for these types of content.

3. Fill in Gaps with Curated Content

Think about your customer. What kind of information would be helpful and useful for them? Is there a new development in your industry that has been featured in a news report? Was there a story going around of a person who was burned by a similar service? Share these links directly on your social media accounts with tie-ins to why they are relevant to your business.

For instance, if I run a carpet cleaning business and there is a news report about Groupon deals making carpets smell bad, I may want to share that report and describe why my carpet cleaning service uses a technique that prevents water from souring.

4. Measure and Adjust as Needed

A marketing campaign without feedback is like talking to the wall. If you’re succeeding at content campaigns, you should be able to see a noticeable difference in your sales leads and conversions. If not, re-evaluate your messages and adjust as needed.

Let’s get one thing straight: Content curation is not content theft. Share links to the original content, don’t copy and paste it into your website without attribution. If you have any doubts about how to implement content curation in your marketing campaigns, contact us at Cube Creative Design!

Hacker survival

It is every web developer’s nightmare. It is something they work hard to prevent and scramble diligently to correct when it strikes. It is a website hacking.

Even the strongest websites fall to hackers, including our own government! The best defense against hackers is knowing that it can happen and having an emergency response plan to get you back up and running as soon as possible.

Preventing a Hack

1. Use strong passwords

Each password used by your site is an entryway for potential hackers.  You should never reuse passwords among different services. You should also never use easy to guess passwords like “password” or anything that includes your name. If you do, you are setting yourself up to be hacked in multiple accounts rather than limiting the damage.

“It’s very common for people to use similar or the same password, “ PayPal’s principal scientist for consumer security Markus Jakobsson told Wired magazine, “but it’s very rare for people to realize that it creates a liability for them to do it and that they need to change their password after they’ve been hacked.” 

If you are hacked, be sure to reset your password immediately.

2. Back up your data on a regular basis.

Sometimes hacker attacks are hard to pinpoint. You may never know how they got in to your website server, but you know they are going to cause damage until you are able to stop whatever it is they did. One of the easiest ways to wipe out a hacker’s work is to restore a backup version of your website. This means you’ll either want to set up automated backups of your database and files, or manually create the backups on a regular basis.

3. Install a good malware antivirus software

Speaking of entry points, your computer is an often-overlooked way to do quite a bit of damage. You can download viruses through email or while browsing the web. These viruses can get into your computer files and give hackers access to information like passwords to your email, website, financial institutions and more.

4. Run e-commerce through merchant gateways

If your website sells products online, one of the best ways to protect against hackers is to let merchant gateways like PayPal do the work for you. Customers will complete their checkout on PayPal’s secure servers, limiting your liability regarding their financial data. If you must accept financial transactions on your site, be sure to have a good working SSL (secure socket layer) certificate that will make it much harder for hackers to steal data as it is being transferred from the user to your web server. This SSL is evident by the “s” in the URL: https://mysite.com.

After a Hack

Websites are hacked every day. Don’t panic, but also don’t sit and wait. Here are some tips to get back what was attacked:

1. Ask “Why?”

Hackers want something. Try to figure out what that is. Did they attack your site in the hopes of spreading a virus to your site visitors? Did they attack to gain information? Was it out of malice? Knowing why your site was hacked can help you recover more quickly.

2. Secure your assets

First you’ll want to change all passwords associated with the hacked account. For a website, this will mean you’ll want to change passwords that access your  domain registration, web site hosting, email accounts and any linked accounts to those services.

While you’re at it, check all your other accounts to be sure you haven’t been compromised elsewhere. If the hacker gained access through your computer, you’ll want to update all your software and any web service you use on that computer, including social media like Facebook.

Business Insider suggests also checking your email settings. If your email was hacked, it could be possible for hackers to set up forwarding so they can continue to access your emails even once you change your password.

3. Look for security issues

Run a security audit on your site for any holes. For Wordpress sites, hackers often get in through outdated plug-ins. Once you’ve restored a clean backup of your site, check to see if you need to run any updates on plugins or the content management system. These updates often contain security updates. There are also plugins that can help you manage your website security. Sucuri offers a free website audit, and also has premium tools to fight hackers, such as firewall protection.

Run that good malware antivirus software on your computer to be sure it isn’t the hacker’s point of entry. Don’t google “free antivirus software” because you’ll likely download a virus. Instead go for a mainstream commercial (aka paid) program that is updated regularly with the most recent malware trends.

4. Get in front of the issue

Wired magazine suggests telling your customers that your site was hacked. It is possible the hackers have already used your access to attack customers or businesses connected to yours. Not only will notifying them raise awareness, but it will also allow them to keep a sharp eye out for suspicious activity in their accounts.

5. Regain your online reputation

Google hackedGoogle’s crawlers are often the first alert you’ll get when your site has been hacked. This warning will repel any search engine traffic until you correct the issue. Google also offers tremendous resources to getting that message taken off your search results.

Being diligent to defending your website’s security will not only allow you to serve your online customers, but will also make your response to hacker attacks quick and relatively painless.

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