Web and Hosting Tips
Written by Sean Valant
Thursday, April 10th, 2014
You may have now heard of the “Heartbleed Bug.” Before we continue, we want to reassure you that if you are hosting on a HostGator shared or reseller server, that your server has already been patched. For everyone else, HostGator customer or not, we have created the following tool to assist you with determining whether or not your site is presently vulnerable and what further action to take, if necessary: https://heartbleed.hostgator.com/
Now, what exactly is the Heartbleed Bug? Technically speaking, it is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. In layman’s terms, it allows the ever-present nefarious individuals the ability to intercept and decode encrypted data. The following quote comes from heartbleed.com:
“The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.”
The bug is so-named due to a normal function between two computers across a network (such as the Internet) sharing an encrypted connection. The “heartbeat” is simply a pulse, or packet of information, sent from one machine to the other to ensure the connection still exists. This functionality is what allows the exploit to occur, in that the heartbeat is simulated by a third party in such a way as to allow them access to the memory of the receiving server.
What this translates to is virtually unlimited, and untraceable, access to a myriad of private information which potentially can include usernames, passwords, and even credit card information. The full extent of the situation is not presently known. What is known is that we should all consider all of our passwords to be compromised. As a result, you absolutely want to update any passwords for anything and everything you log into online. However, if you change your password for an account on a server that has not been patched, then you can consider the new password compromised as well.
For full information regarding this situation, we recommend reading the associated Wikipedia article.
Written by Kyler Patterson
Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
For small businesses, advertising and marketing is an expense that most don’t want to have to budget for. It’s costly and ineffective unless you know what you’re doing. Not all of us went to college for a Marketing Degree. Luckily, there are ways to bring the cost down and do it all from the comfort of home or office. For any small business online, you need to understand what SEO is and how to do it. Although SEO is a must and it is worth it, these results take time to deliver. In the world of making money, we want results and we want them now.
How do we get fast results? Before we can answer that, we need to ask, where is our target audience? With over 1 Billion active users, I believe the answer to that question is Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, you need to create it immediately after reading this post. One of our previous posts discussed 5 Facebook Updates You Need to Know About and you should read it after you’ve created your Facebook page.
This article isn’t going to explain how to create a Facebook Page and how to create ads. If you need to a refresher or need to get caught up to speed, check out the Facebook Ad Getting Started Page.
If you did Facebook advertising in the past and you haven’t done any recently, then there are probably a few changes that you should be aware of. These are covered in the next sections.
Campaigns / Ad Sets / Ads
Previously, Facebook had Campaigns and Ads. You set your budget in the campaign, then created ads within it. It worked, but it wasn’t amazingly effective. With the new set up, you can create Ad Sets. Virtually, these are what the previous campaigns were. You can set your start / end dates, budget, and pause all ads within the set. Used correctly, this can really help with your testing (discussed below). Usually after starting a campaign, we look at what sets are performing and which aren’t, then pause/stop the ads that we don’t want to spend further money on.
Call to Action Buttons
If you’ve been following our blog for some time, you’ve probably seen our post about Content Marketing and Creating a Call to Action. If you don’t know what a CTA is, that post is definitely worth the read.
Recently, Facebook introduced the Call To Action buttons that are available for Newsfeed and Mobile ad types. These buttons help by saving the few characters you use to write “Learn More Here” and helps create the specific Call to Action that you’re wanting from your viewers.
Types of call-to-action buttons include:
- Shop Now – Sending users to your store to make purchases
- Learn More – Sending users to an informative page, blog post, or landing page
- Sign Up – Creates leads for newsletters and subscription services
- Book Now – Reservations for cruises, hotels, concerts, and more
- Download – Grab a copy of your latest ebook or application
This section isn’t really “new” but if used properly, you can target your customers more accurately instead of wasting money on impressions for people that aren’t in the market for your product.
As you’ll see from the picture, you can real customize everything to target specific people. If you want to choose people from a specific set of cities, states, or countries, it’s easier than ever. Do you want to sell to just men or just women, or maybe a specific age range? Perhaps you want to choose people by interests such as a movie or book related to your product. All of these can be set within the ad creator. To find what works for you, you should test test and test some more.
If you have an email list of your customers or subscribers, then you can make use of the custom audiences. One word for this, awesome. With Custom Audiences you can target people who have expressed an interest in your brand or are already part of your brand. This allows you to promote new products to existing customers, as well as products to people who have subscribed to your newsletter but haven’t purchased anything. What it does is take your list of email addresses and matches them to active Facebook accounts. Chances are, a large majority of your list will have used that same email on their Facebook account. From there, you’re able to market to them. Don’t have a list? Create a blog and allow readers to subscribe to updates.
This is probably the most important section of our article. At the beginning, you will be doing a lot of testing. And to be honest, testing will never stop. What you might find working in one instance doesn’t work in another. Or if you try targeting other countries, you’ll find that different colors mean different things and perhaps a red border works for users in America, but it sends a sign of warning to those in India.
So what’s the best way to test? Ad sets. They are built for testing. Here are some bullets types of testing
- Newsfeed, Right Side, or Mobile – Create an ad set for each of these, then run the same ads within each to see which brings you more traffic and conversions. If you’re not optimized for mobile, make sure you don’t choose the mobile option.
- Country – Can your product be sold globally? Try out different markets to see who is your best audience to target. As you’ll find, some countries are cheaper per click than others. This is because of less advertising competition in these countries. This is also a trick that some companies may use to build their Facebook Page’s audience for cheap at the beginning.
- Cities – If you’re confined to a local area, you can still test the different surrounding cities to see what works best for you in terms of conversions.
- Pictures – With ads, you want to have something that has a picture since it will pop out more. But which picture should you use? Different symbols and colors stand out to people. On right side ads, you can put bright borders to attract the eye to the right side. You can run the same ad with 4 different pictures to see which does better. Then after a couple of hours, pause the low performers and then your money will be spent on the pictures that convert or drive leads.
- Ad Copy – Find out what trigger words get your buyers in the door. Create a few different versions of your advertising text to see what works better for you.
- Call to Action – Are there multiple CTAs listed above that you can use? Try them all out!
Now that you have all of your ads set up and you have traffic coming in the door, you need to be able to see if they’re coming from your ads or elsewhere. That’s why you need some sort of tracking in place. There are so many ways to go with this, but we’ll list a few below:
- Coupon Code – Offer a specific coupon code for your ads to see what converted sales
- Conversion Pixel – Facebook allows you to install a pixel on your sales page that shows after a sale is made. This sends an alert to Facebook to say that a sale was made.
- Google URL Builder – This creates custom campaigns for Google Analytics and it works
- Affiliate Links – If you have an affiliate program, you can create an affiliate account for Facebook and create campaigns with your links to track customers
Good luck with your Facebook advertising and be sure to come back soon for information about Twitter advertising!
Written by Taylor Hawes
Monday, April 7th, 2014
Social media is great for connecting your business to your customers, and allowing them to have direct close access to you can be a boon for your brand image. However, unfettered access also means that more customers feel free to complain either directly or indirectly about companies through social media. In this media climate, it’s important to leverage your PR skills to positive effect, and here’s how.
Your customer turned to social media to complain because they are looking for an immediate response, and while you may be busy with product development meetings or vendor calls, these seemingly-small, Facebook-born comments should receive similar attention. Make sure that you get back to them as soon as you see the complaint.
Have a dedicate twitter account for issues
Social media is all about context, which is why big corporations create accounts specifically for reporting and responding to issues, decluttering their primary social feed and filtering the important messages from the fluff. Nike and Comcast are two examples of companies that have dedicated accounts on twitter for customers experiencing issues for precisely these reasons. If your company is big enough, create a dedicated account where customers can reach you when something has gone amiss.
Be responsive around the clock
Know your business well and when your customers will be using your services. If you are a restaurant, for example, you can expect to hear from customers late in to the evening if they have had a bad dinner experience. Monitor your account around the clock as best you can or, better yet, dedicate staff to the task so that you can respond quickly.
Address the issue and offer a solution
In your response, be sure to restate the problem so it is clear you understand it, and give your customer a solution if one is available. Communication requires empathy and efficiency, and this approach will achieve both.
Offer new information they might not have access to
Airlines can frequently update the customer as to the status of cancelled or delayed flights quickly before that information is disseminated at the gate. Give the customer all the information you have as they might not have access to it. This will also show that you are paying close attention to their particular circumstances.
If no solution is available offer empathy
Sometimes no immediate solution is available, but it is important to respond as fast you can. A simple “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. That sounds like an awful time/situation/experience. We are working on it and will get back to you soon” can calm an angry customer while you work on a solution.
Direct them to resources where answers or solutions may be found
When you can’t provide the solution over social media, let them know where they can go to receive resolution, be it an email address they need to contact or a store manager they need to talk to directly. Keep in mind that social media channels aren’t the most appropriate avenue for obtaining things like account numbers or private information, so be sure to direct them to someone offline that can help them.
Be aware of your twitter account and follow your tags and hashtags
Someone on your staff needs to have alerts set for any tags or hashtags customers might
utilize to try and reach you. Pay attention to them, particularly if you intend to use them for support purposes.
Answer all of the questions asked (not just the easy one)
When writing your response go back and look at the original complaint. It may be easy to address just one issue but they may have had several questions or concerns. Address each and every one, clearly and effectively.
Rectify what you can
Make the situation right as fast as you can. You can’t fix every aspect of their problem but whatever issue you can fix, do so quickly. Remedying even a portion of the customer’s problem will be seen as progress and improve your image as a result.
Follow through with the issue
Chances are you won’t solve the problem on the first go around so go back and check in with your customer. Did they get a new flight? Was the broken item replaced? Etc etc. Follow up with the customer and demonstrate compassion, empathy, and dedication to their needs in the process. Do not wait to be asked for additional assistance!
Show customer appreciation
Proactively reach out to customers who are mentioning your company in a positive way. If someone takes a picture at your business and tags you, repost/retweet it! If you get a positive review on Facebook contact the customer and say thank you. These small actions will show that you are listening, potentially turning one time reviewers into brand evangelists.
Provide a real world solution
The coffee was cold? Offer to replace their cup free of charge. Car wasn’t repaired properly? Have them bring it back in. If it was a tangible problem offer a tangible solution, and remember that generosity is remembered, blogged about, rewarded, and retweeted.
Don’t remove complaints
It can be tempting to remove a complaint after you have addressed the concern, but leaving them alone should be standard practice for your business. Make sure that your responses and solutions are in the comments section or your direct reply to the tweet. New customers will see the complaint but also see that you were responsive and accommodating to customer needs.
Above all reply and act in a professional manner. Your customer might be rude or upset but it is your job to maintain your calm and mitigate the situation as fast as you can. Remember: a crabby customer is an issue, but a positive response is an asset, and your customers will notice that.
In an age of ubiquitous social media, communication comes from many inboxes. Tend to your Twitter and Facebook accounts and exercise professionalism, and your wall will become a testament to your dedication to your customers.
Written by Brandi Bennett
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Email marketing is big. It’s no secret. Email marketing is one of the best ways to not only ensure that your brand and your products or services stay fresh within the minds of your clients, it allows you to catch their attention, appealing to the impulse buy side of your clientele.
Leverage Existing Relationships
If an individual sees your product or service in their email and thinks that what you are offering is a great deal they may simply click through the email to purchase it, as they already have a relationship with your company, without feeling the need to do any form of price comparison or the like. It’s easy for people to get caught up in the moment, wanting to get their products and services out to as many people as humanly possible, regardless of whether or not the person has technically asked for that email from you. There’s just one problem with this. That type of behavior is illegal; an internet no-no.
“But I just found this list of people’s email addresses! It’s obvious that they wouldn’t have left it lying about if they didn’t want others to use it” you might proclaim. Or you might have decided to purchase a mailing list, share email addresses with your buddy who has an email list as well, or simply have pulled email addresses off of Craig’s list or some other site where such information is freely posted. You might justify it to yourself in a thousand and one different ways, but the fact of the matter is that the justification doesn’t count, not when it goes against the CAN-SPAM act, your hosting provider’s terms of service and acceptable use policies, and their upstream providers terms of service and acceptable use policies.
The Low Down:
In order for your mailing list to be a legitimate one, in order for your messages to not be considered spam, and to ensure that you are able to stay with your hosting provider, there are several things that you cannot do.
- Use a purchased mailing list
- Use a mailing list that was given to you
- Use a mailing list that you found somewhere (sorry, that email address you found in the back of the taxi can’t be just tacked on to the end of your list, gotta throw that one out!)
- Randomly generate email addresses and send out messages to all of them, hoping one goes through to a legitimate email address.
“Well, that seems like a lot that I can’t do,” you might think to yourself, and the truth is, you’re right. You cannot do anything that gets around the idea of not getting someone’s permission to email them. So what can you do, not only to make sure that your mailing list is legitimate, but that it’s CAN-SPAM compliant?
The Double Opt In:
Make sure that you get everyone’s permission to email them, not once, but twice. This process is referred to as double opt in, and it means that not only does someone have to give you their email address, but you then have to ask them if they really meant to give it to you, and they have to say yes before you can start including them on your mailing list. The process usually goes something like this:
- A person puts in an email address on your site, indicating that they want to receive email from you. The reason this isn’t enough is that you have no way of knowing whether the person entering the email address is the one that owns the email address.
- You receive their form with their email address listed. You’re excited! You want to add them to your list, but you just can’t yet. First you have to send them an email, typically with a link that will write to a database stating the date and time that they accepted (this is the second time they are accepting).
- They will click on the link, writing the information to the database (you want to retain this information in case you later get reported as spam, thus proving your legit status and ensuring that you don’t get in trouble).
- You will add them to your mailing list and can email them every time you send out the mailing list.
The Rest Of The Story:
Keep in mind that there are other laws, rules and regulations that you may need to adhere to, such as the fact that all individuals requesting access to adult content, if that’s what you’re offering, must be over eighteen, but it’s your responsibility to determine whether what you are sending needs those additional features. You can read about the guidelines at the FTC’s site here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm
Remember, if you receive a complaint from your hosting provider about your mailing list, they’re not only working to make sure that you are in compliance with the rules, but that they are as well. They don’t want to get in trouble either for violating Federal law, so don’t take it personally, just remember that you’ve got to keep your mailing list legit; once it’s there, it’s smooth sailing for both of you.