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World War “IT” — Are Linux Duffers the “National Guard” of Tech?

BBS MenuOne of the conversations I’m having more often (say in the past 20 months) is “continuity” planning — in the event that “World War IT” breaks out — how are businesses going to continue?

  • If communication utilities are hacked? How will we rebuild B-B and B-C networks if the internet is shaky — fall backs like a BBS might serve as an order processing platform.
  • How to operate in isolation for a while? If we’re not connected to a WAN. Inventory — where is that box?

These dialogues are more often “beer” fueled … and not really actionable but they have a strategic vein. Few I know are actually going to the time/expense to build systems, collecting old bones into unpowered piles that can be used as “bricks” — rebuilding networks that have been damaged. There are some, though…

The challenge we’re facing is sort of on the DHS front and there is a certain symmetry to it.

Think of it like this: Linux IT Duffers are the National Guard of IT.

There is a widening dialogue (Link) within Microsoft and Windows circles particularly – about alternatives that are quick, inexpensive and secure. An essential element is modest hardware requirements. Linux shines on all of those aspects.

If you’re hoarding and/or building systems and storing “IT Bricks” in your closet, let me know.  I’d like to take this temperature — fill in the Poll below?

Email Marketing

Direct Marketing in the Digital Age – Emailing Client Lists?

Social Media channels afford businesses the opportunity to solicit followers by engaging prospective clients with interesting offers and dialogue on topics of shared interest.  This is great actually, but it’s not the end of the game, just the beginning.

Curves representing email volumes in 2013 versus 2014 during the all-important Holiday Season.

Curves representing email volumes in 2013 versus 2014 during the all-important Holiday Season.

Modern businesses have a plan for how to leverage sending direct email to their customer lists. Operating an opt-in “Newsletter” is one method.  But also — capturing contacts from staff email accounts and driving towards forms of customer relationship management by sending periodic communications to those addresses is absolutely legitimate.

More than legitimate, Direct EMail is critical.

MailChimp.com, a very popular email list management company (they have quite a nice free offer for small clients) reports that mailings this past holiday season through their service rose 72% from December 2013.  View their blog post here.

MailChimp.com is one example of an affordable, easy to use, effective "List Management" service.

MailChimp.com is one example of an affordable (free in many cases), easy to use, effective “List Management” service.

Earlier in my career I worked for a Mail Order clothing company.  Each season came with a huge push to collect current buyer names, merge those with past seasons and blend these with new prospects that matched our demographics. The company invested huge amounts of resources.  And it was effective. It’s still done this way, but with enhancements of course.

In this era, it’s quite a powerful thing to realize that marketing one’s wares isn’t just limited to our Web Presence. Smart operators are marketing directly to email addresses. Something powerful exists in a scenario as simple as having a satisfied client forward an email to a new prospect.

What’s changed is that this applies now to businesses with just a few hundred email addresses in their list. Small is beautiful. Why? Because if only a few responses are obtained, the small operator has the opportunity to personally engage each one uniquely.

It’s a consistent fear among clients we consult that emailing clients will result in being marked as a spammer. This can be true, if you abuse their inbox. But if a business has a relationship with a client, it’s more likely they appreciate knowing you haven’t forgotten them. Further, it keeps the Brand alive in the client’s awareness.

Remember, in the age of Symantec Search and burgeoning databases of information on each one of us — it’s become a “Market of One.”

Moleskein and Mt Blank Pen

Content Intelligence — Does Search “Grade our Work”?

In a word? “Yes.”

But more importantly so do your web site visitors.

Much of the interaction with clients migrating from legacy web sites revolves around building a new vocabulary. New sites require new processes and these are not described with the web language of the previous decade.

Further, deploying a new Web Presence inevitably involves reshaping the message. Most often to sharpen it’s focus. Why? To render an effective page on mobile appliances to start. But there’s more.

A paper published online discussing these issues for Grad Students at Washington State asks:

“How can I decide what to include and what to exclude?”

“In all of these steps, it is important to have a clear sense of your audience: what are their interests? what do they know already? what do they consider appropriate evidence? Based on your title, what are they expecting?”

By default the “Forklift” site migration process means just what it sounds like — “shoveling” content from the old site to the new one.  Yet this can be detrimental to how Search agents view the new pages.

Here’s why:  A site that is 5 years old or more, probably contains way too much prose.  And, there is a chance that the text it contains is less well written, at least from a “freshness” perspective.  For lack of a better description, it’s “Grade Level” isn’t competitive with new sites in the market for a reader’s attention.

Given a site that reads like it was written by a High School student and one that seems if it was written by an MBA — Search will more positively rank the MBA’s work.

Why?  Because in the age of “Symantec Search” — correctly and effectively answering questions is the game.  It’s being won by well-designed and well-written Pages. (For heavens sake don’t use these pages as examples.  Calculus makes sense to me.  English has always been more like Black Magic.)

An online search of testing tools — ones where you can insert a paragraph of text and have it analyzed — yields just a few results.  Here is my favorite:

Text Scoring Tool. http://sarahktyler.com/code/sample.php

Give it a whirl.  And send Sarah an email to say thanks.

Or hire a quality Editor.  Most of us don’t enjoy that kind of budget do we?

So when your Boss says “Just put it in there the way I wrote it” – you can run it through Sarah’s tool. Go back to them armed with some concrete suggestions on how to improve that lump of 10th grade (bleep) before site visitors laugh at your page.

Deal A Story Cards … Product marketing Campaign set to launch.

We’re celebrating an important milestone with RDRPublishers.com.

Deal-A-Story cards by Sue Vidders.  Offered for sale online at RDRPublishers.com new web presence.

Deal-A-Story cards by Sue Vidders. Offered for sale online at RDRPublishers.com new web presence.

Since August the work began with surveying and assessing various assets.  One of the first tangible products of the process was a branded product site www.dealastory.com. This represents a fulcrum for community building around the brand, but also a reflection of the product intended to amplify E-commerce and SEO results.

Following on, we migrated the Online Store with books and other products away from their legacy provider onto services hosted by Shopify.com.  As of October RDRPublishers.com has been operational and a few “organic” orders have come through the system.

While books continue to be added to the new store, owing to readiness and other factors we are now moving forward with online advertising – commencing with Deal A Story cards.

The strategy (and I encourage the reader to fully understand this) is to begin with this single product, and then mirror the process for other offers as time passes.  These plans are “seasonally intelligent.”  For instance, we’ll launch a campaign for the Healthy Relationships Poster sometime prior to St. Valentines day.  And prior to this, we’ll produce a Product Branded site for the poster similar to the on we installed for Deal-A-Story Cards.

Also, the reader should understand that underpinning all of these initiatives lies preparation of the “plumbing” required to analyze and respond to trends.  Namely, the implementation of Google Analytics, Webmaster tools and other features prior to launching the Marketing Effort. My point being; sure you can advertise online, but absent the tools to measure how it’s working, are you spending wisely?

As to costs. The Online Store at Shopify costs less that $30/mo.  Webmaster Tools, Analytics, the Adwords account itself — are all free.  The Dealastory.com website itself? less than $30 / year.

If your sales online aren’t what they should be. Or your spending to accomplish sales online seems out of whack?  I encourage you to imagine what can be accomplished in the “free to extreme low cost” world.

Mobile Phone App

Mobile: Connecting Shoppers to Local Stores

Article worth a look:

New Research Shows How Digital Connects Shoppers to Local Stores

“The retail industry is undergoing a dramatic shift: In-store foot traffic is down, online research is up and smartphones are becoming increasingly important to the consumer’s in-store shopping journey.”

JBJLawn.com Updates Web Presence

JBJLawn screen shotJBJLawn.com is refreshing their Web Presence. They’ve adopted a WordPress.com site and are busy preparing to move forward with blogging about thier activities in the field — communicating online with clients and prospects about what they do, how it looks before and after and other aspects of “Engaging” a new generation of followers. Congratulations John & Maryann! Notably, the site is optimized for viewing from Mobile appliances — with their phone number on the front page customers can dial them directly from their smart phone web browser.

URL Redirects – Important links during Web Presence migrations

New versions of Web Presence engines focus on content management -- and are improving the means of adding, adapting and publishing meaningful information to your viewers.

New versions of Web Presence engines focus on content management — and are improving the means of adding, adapting and publishing meaningful information to your viewers.

We are in a season of Web Presence upgrades.  For those operating self-hosted sites with WordPress.org, you should be aware of the recent release of the WordPress 4.0 site engine / CSS.

Matt Mullenweg <m@wordpress.org> circulated the following announcement the other day…

Just a few days ago, we released WordPress 4.0 “Benny” which has already been downloaded almost three-and-a-half million times! This release includes major improvements to the plugin directory, a much more pleasant environment to write in, with better embed support and an auto-expanding editor, and finally media has been made more functional and beautiful.

http://wordpress.org/news/2014/09/benny/

The reasons to upgrade are compelling … see those at the link above.

Anyway — if your upgrade means a complete web migration — you’re replacing a legacy site altogether — you’ll have issues with URL’s.  Here are some things to note.

If you have analytics data you should use it to design page titles in your new site.   If you don’t there are some other tools you can use that will help you anticipate the best keywords. (Ask us?)

Designing the page titles is important, but not critical — just realize that you can re-word these things as time passes.

But what about all of the existing SEO results that point to your old pages?  In your new site you should be able to install what are known as URL redirects.  These accept traffic from the old URL and “land” those visitors on the new page.

Be sure you have analytics operating in the new site.  You’ll be able to see which URL’s are being visited, but importantly — you ‘ll also be able to identify old URL’s that you need to provide redirects for.