Why Your Business Should Be Writing a Blog

Why your business should blog

Blogging is more than sharing angry vents, happy memories, self-indulgent bragging and hobby posts. It is a marketing tool, an SEO gem and a shareable opportunity to provide your audience with helpful, inspirational and real information.

Let me explain in better detail.

Blogs drive traffic to your website. How? Well every time you publish a post, it signals to search engines and tells them that they need to re-scan your website- that you are active and have updated/provided new information. So what? Well every new indexed page means a heightened chance that your blog is going to surface when someone types keywords into a search engine… which means strangers will read your post, be directed to your site- then SHARE your post… then their contacts will be directed to your site and so on and so forth.

Blogs provide shareable content. When you write relevant information, people will want to share it on twitter, facebook, google+, pinterest and linkedin. Most blog hosts automatically imbed a “share” button at the bottom of each published post- so no need to worry about that. So again you are driving people to your site through your blog.

Blogs provide you with street cred. Or industry cred… whatever you prefer. Your blog showcases your knowledge and your willingness to share that knowledge. You are confident enough in your ability to communicate with your audience!

Blogs give your company a voice. Obviously your blog content will be relevant, on brand and the ‘voice’ you use will be consistent. People will get an idea of what to expect when they communicate with your company by what they read on your blog, how you respond to comments (good AND bad) and the tone in your posts.

Blogs are fairly easy to set up. You don’t have to be a graphic designer! You can use sites like wordpress, hubspot, blog.com… we use wordpress- but the choice is yours! You can choose from a plethora of template designs and colours to suit your needs and keep you on brand.

I recommend writing your posts in word or some other word processor- that way you can utilize the spelling/ grammar features AND you can save it half way through. You can also start multiple posts and go back to them if your brain freezes. I also don’t like to fully rely on the world wide web to save my draft properly should a hiccup occur.

Blogging isn’t scary. It’s fun and with practice comes confidence! Don’t think too much about tweaking it into perfection (you can always go back and edit after it’s published) just write it, check grammar and spelling and hit publish! You can do this! Follow likeminded people- read their blogs. Get inspired and be inspiring!
Good luck!

Internet Security

‘Tis the season for reflection of the past year and planning for the new year. Internet Security

To help you with your business resolutions we’ve reached out to multiple professionals, in various fields to chime in on what we believe to be very important areas of interest for you and your company.

This next blog covers areas of internet security- something that we all should be taking very seriously given how fast technology is moving and how clever some scams have become! When we asked George Gojmerac, web developer and technology tutor for his company ‘Mr. Tutor-Tech’, to guest write for us on the topic- here is what he shared:

“ When you see articles about stolen account information from some of the biggest companies in the world (Facebook, Twitter, Adobe), the ones that pay huge amounts of dollars on security, have the best equipment and some of the top minds, you should stop and ask yourself how important is my information and what can I do to keep it safe?

Using things like firewalls, anti-virus and intrusion prevention software are a very good start. The easiest way you can compare all this to an adult is through sex. You try to avoid catching some type of STD, what do you do? You can only say no so often (intrusion prevention), eventually it’ll happen and you’ll need a condom (firewall) and then if you do catch something you’ll need a shot (anti-virus) and hope it’s curable otherwise you’re infected.

Some of these methods like the firewall try to keep things out but users end up inviting things in as well, kind of like not wearing a condom, you’re taking a chance. Clicking on an emails Excel attachment (watch out for macros) for example could put you into a world of hurt, it would be nice if there was an “Easy Button” for this but there’s not, just like schools have adopted Sex Education so should people today be Computer/Technically Educated.

If you need internet for your company provide only access to what people need, don’t allow them to just visit pages aimlessly not only will this reduce them from wasting time surfing but it’ll keep your network safer. You should also consider locking down things like USB ports and CD drives so they can’t be accessed and prevent users from being able to make changes to these settings as well by password protecting it. I’d recommend doing this through the BIOS so that they can’t boot the system up using something like a Linux boot and bypassing any Windows security you have in place, this can still be circumvented but not without opening up the computer and getting inside of it. Not all company security breaches come from the internet though- someone simply placing a CD on a company desk with a company logo and having something like “top secret” written on it will do the trick if someone wants to swipe information. Also anytime somebody leaves their computer they should lock it, it doesn’t even hurt to have it automatically lock after a few minutes just in case they forget.

Another way to get someone infected is through Social Engineering. This requires hackers collecting and building information on a target then tricking the user into doing something. Simple versions of this are easy to spot, like that email from your dead Uncle in some country you’ve never been too or don’t even have a single relative near, others might involve them posing as a friend and using their email which is noticeable but sometimes a little harder to spot. Other tricks include emails from someone pretending to be a bank for example; they trick you into clicking on a link that takes you to a fake page that looks just like your banking page (phishing). Then you enter your information not noticing a tiny detail in the address bar that would have made you think twice about doing it! But now it’s too late….

Back to our firewall for a second, sometimes you might need something like a connection to a Remote Desktop on your computer so now you need to provide a hole in your firewall to do this. If you’re thinking about putting holes in a condom now, get your head back in the game that analogy stopped a few paragraphs ago. So now you have this hole in your firewall, one thing you can do to improve its security is create a VPN (Virtual Private Network) this would require you to know certain settings so that you can connect through the internet using an encrypted network so that anybody listening in won’t be able to read what you’re transmitting.

Thought I’d save the best for last, encryption is when you take a signal and mix it all up in a particular way where only the other party knows how to put it back together properly. This is done occasionally on some web sites, typically login pages to get onto things like email accounts which are usually encrypted as well. You can tell if a web page is encrypted or not by looking at the address bar, if there is an “https” like what we use for our site “https://mr.tutor-tech.com” then you’re safer, if you see “http” or neither of these then it’s unencrypted. To encrypt information the site needs to obtain a certificate, they can issue this themselves possibly to trick you so if you see the “https” being highlighted with a red colour or an x through it then this means the place that issued the certificate wasn’t registered and might not be trusted. Basically you’re using it at your own risk, even if it’s green (legit) doesn’t really ensure your safety just means they purchased a legal certificate from a reputable site and the traffic is encrypted. Technically the site that issued it to them knows it exists but that doesn’t mean the site should be trusted, if you’re unsure of the company or more specifically the URL, research it and don’t just assume it’s not some type of scam because it has a legal certificate.

Now back to regular web pages and regular email, they are transmitted in plain text and can be read by anybody with a computer and a little bit of knowledge. This means you should be very careful with the information you put or send forward, things like your credit card information, account user name and passwords are a big no, no and a surprise gift for any hacker listening in. Some email clients allow you to send encrypted mail, use this if you absolutely must transmit private information.

As you can see there any many considerations to take into account when addressing internet/network security and although there are no guarantees on the subject staying informed/educated about your options is your strongest asset, especially since you the user are usually the weakest link.

“My name is George and I created Mr.Tutor-Tech with you in mind! We provide flexible inexpensive tutorials designed just for you! Our courses are intended for those over the age of 14. Our hours vary and we do our best to accommodate your schedule 7 days a week. It’s recommended you call and make an appointment before just stopping by as we may have a class in progress.”

Visit https://mr.tutor-tech.com or https://www.facebook.com/MrTutorTech for more information or feel free to email George directly at george@mr.tutor-tech.com.

Your DIY Website: Can it be improved?

DIY

Do it yourself websites have come a long way. Now more than ever, you can design a beautiful website yourself for much less than the cost of a graphic designer (sorry graphic designer friends! I know these template websites don’t compare to custom coding but not everyone can afford you off the hop). That being said: You want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your DIY website, that you are appealing to the public and that you are being received as a professional company!

I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the top ten DIY website building areas of focus:

1) ANALYTICS

“Google Analytics is a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales.” – wiki

YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO IS VISITING YOUR SITE! You want to know how long they are staying, what pages they like/dislike, where they live, their language and more. The information that you can collect FOR FREE will help direct your advertising efforts (so you know where to target) it will help you measure your efforts and outlines your ROI. Get yourself a Google account and sign your site up for Google analytics. www.google.ca/analytics/

The website builder you use will have an analytics section in its settings. Once you are set up and given your analytics number- you simply copy and paste the number into the setting. If you don’t know where that is? Type ‘Analytics ‘into their HELP search area.

2) MUSIC

Don’t have automatic music. A large percentage of people surfing the web are at work taking a break and the last think they need is your chosen song to start blasting in their office and have everyone KNOW that they are taking a break. Best believe they will be closing off your site ASAP and probably aren’t going to return. If you want music on?-that’s fine! Just don’t have it on auto-play, give people the option to play it at their own leisure.

3) IMAGES

If you are going to ‘borrow’ an image from a search engine- make sure you give credit where it is due and make sure your image makes sense- no pink martini glasses just because you think the colour matches your real estate business’s logo.

Make sure that you label your images properly when you upload them so that when a user’s mouse goes over it, it doesn’t read gibberish/ the file name. Describe the pictures as best you can to relate to your business so that you increase your SEO (search engine optimization).

Pixilation is the worst. Please don’t publish blurry photos! A trick is to size the image to what you want before uploading it rather than resizing it online.

4) SPELLING & GRAMMAR

No one expects you to be a top notch editor- people do however, expect you to be somewhat grammatically correct and for your spelling to be correct. Ask family and friends to look over your written work before you post. I like to write all of my work in word so obvious spelling errors will be highlighted (grammar isn’t that easy).

5) LESS IS MORE

Lay off the million banners, boxes, pictures, information- you may scare off a visitor. You have three seconds to make a good impression- use it wisely. Personally I like when the homepage is short but sweet and doesn’t involve a lot of scrolling down and definitely never scrolling to the sides.

Oh! Your DIY builder offers groovy animations for your site? DON’T DO IT! Clip-art emoticons are not the way to go… no matter what, that dancing smiley face holding a fishing rod doesn’t fit into a professional site. (Sorry)

6) CONTACT INFORMATION IS CORRECT

Your company contact information, make sure your employee information is up to date, your social media handles haven’t changed… actually- just make sure all of your information is correct.

That’s better.

7) CHECK YOUR LINKS

Does your email hyperlink work? Does your social media handle direct properly? External links- are the correct? ALWAYS check your links. Clicking and being directed to a null page is irritating.

8) FONT

Stay away from too many fonts. Make sure your font is not too big, not too small. (If you are targeting senior citizens? Bump up the font size to make it easier to read). Stay away from neon colours, rainbow colours, bright yellow on black (I personally despise solid black website backgrounds, my eyes feel like they are going to burn out.) Ideally (according to my graphic designer friends) you should use two no more than three fonts.

9) WEBSITE ADS

There are plenty of free website builders- if you want to be taken seriously, buy their upgraded package so you diminish the ads that you get if you use the free option (plus you don’t get a personalized domain name with the free package- personalized domains are a must).

The price ranges from $50-$200 and it is worth every penny. “Create your own free website” splattered all over your site doesn’t say commitment to me. Not to mention sometimes you have no control over the ads being posted! You are selling cute fuzzy Christmas crafts and XXX ads could be tarnishing the reputation you are trying to build. (Maybe not XXX ads, but you get my drift.)

10) TAKE YOUR TIME

Time is money- yes- but if you are going to build your own site I hope you are somewhat computer literate and will be able to maneuver through the site options. Take your time and see what your site builder has to offer before really getting started. Also- you don’t have to publish your site off the hop. Save your work and publish it when you are ready. Take your time and label everything correctly. Fill in all the blanks in your page settings so you increase your SEO and are user friendly.

Take note that I am not a graphic designer– I don’t claim to be. I am a DIY site builder, a website user and a corporate communications graduate who knows that this top ten list makes a world of difference.

Crystal Lengua