Articles in "Business and Marketing"

Celebrate National Small Business Week, May 12-16, with The Final Code.

by Ventura County Now

May 14th, 2014

Celebrate National Small Business Week, May 12-16, with The Final Code.

The Final Code celebrate small business week with Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties

We are offering all Ventura County and Santa Barbara County small businesses a chance to grow by taking advantage of Google’s Business Listings.

 

During the month of May in the spirit of National Small Business Week, The Final Code is offering FREE organic Search Engine Analysis and Google+ evaluation.

Every Analysis includes:

  1. The "Top 10" Keyword List
    Keywords and key phrases your site should be targeting for high search engine placement.
    Who's looking for your product or services now?
  2. Your current search engine place with the "Top 10" Keyword List
    How much more business could you be getting by utilizing these terms?
  3. Google Business Listing and Google+ Evaluation
    It’s Google it’s “+” How much more do you need to know? We’ll inform you about Google+ and Google Business listings. Both are essential for your business. This includes Google Reviews, Google+ profile, and main index point for all listings. Everybody that wants to be found on Google needs one.
  4. Analysis Report
    A comprehensive summary of our analysis, including personalized approach to increasing your business visibility. One of our knowledgeable staff members is available to explain this report to you over the phone.

 

This offer is only valid for businesses local to Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
Offer valid through May 2014. Call us as soon as you can for your free Small Business Special.

With offices located in downtown Ventura and Santa Barbara, The Final Code aims to help local businesses grow through effective internet marketing.

  • We are here to help!
  • We welcome walk-ins
  • No appointment necessary
  • Serving Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for over 18 years
  • Call for your FREE report (805) 243-8321 or Fill out this form

 

Get your free Analysis and report today!
When it comes to your internet marketing statistics it doesn’t hurt to know, and hurts not to know!

Visit us online at: www.TheFinalCode.com

©2014 The Final Code 1068 E. Main St, Ventura, CA, 93001The Final Code FacebookThe Final Code Google+

 

Online Shopping sites, Ecommerce shopping cart

by Ventura County Now

August 30th, 2013

Attention Merchants!!!

Do you have your online shopping catalog ready for the holidays?  Do not miss out on the biggest sales margins of the year.  There will be more people than ever shopping online this holiday season, so what are you waiting for?  Come in here now and prepare yourself for the harvest!

 

“The Final Code Internet Marketing & Production Firm” in the heart of Ventura will be introducing Ecommerce shopping cart solutions for 2013’s last quarter sales via weekly complimentary “Lunch Workshops” starting September 13th.  Bring your lunch along with your questions and concerns and we will do the rest to educate you on how to move YOUR holiday merchandise off the shelves.

 

Register today, seating is limited.  Please call 805-243-8321 to reserve your spot and don’t hesitate, you won’t get this information for ‘free’ anywhere else!

Receive an affordable Ecommerce online shopping website in time for the holiday season.

 

Location:

1068 E Main Street #100

Ventura, CA 93001

 

When:

Sept. 13 through Dec. 17, 2013

Every Friday from 12-1pm



We are offering Full Ecommerce online shopping sites to the first 100 attendees at a pre-holiday markdown ($200 per month for six months hosting fees included for a $2,500 savings).

 

Your Ecommerce site will include:

  • PayPal and Authorize.net payment processing functionality

  • FedEx / USPS shipping setup

  • Real time shipping results

  • Every Item Search Engine Optimized

 

 

Once your site is setup you will receive four (4) hours of free training on how to:

  • Add unlimited amounts of product

  • Add product videos/ photos

  • Create item attributes

  • Set stock levels

  • Add unlimited amount of categories and departments

  • Add sales items (no calculations)

Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Website

by Robert McMurray

Blog Writer
May 6th, 2013

Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Website

Product Sales    

  • Online shopping is a continually growing trend, especially around the holidays.  Statistics show the largest growth is occurring in the retail sector, which earned $162 billion in 2011.  E-commerce (online sales) has been forecast to exceed that by more than $100 billion in 2015!  That rate jumps during holidays and other gift giving occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, and so on.  Your local business needs to compete in the rapidly expanding internet sector, or it has no chance to keep up with the online giants.  Don’t let the bigger companies like Amazon and Google take all the pie.  A website can help sell your products, plain and simple, 24/7.  It’s easier to get started than you think.  The sooner you take action, the sooner you can start to get a piece of the internet-market pie.
E-Commerce Product sales

Product Promotion

  • A website is the best way to show customers what makes your local business unique by displaying exactly what you offer.  You can include pictures, video, and testimonials to your quality and experience, among many things.  Your customers don’t have to visit your store to see what you sell, as they have the convenience of browsing your online shelves, even when your brick and mortar store may be closed!  Display your products online and let the customers see what they want, the way you want them to see them.  What makes you stand out from your competitors?  What do you HAVE that you know your customers WANT?  A website is the way to convey this to potential new customers, or update current ones on sales and new items in your inventory!  Starting a website for your business can be easy and affordable, and obviously PROFITABLE!
Connecting Business with customers

Promotion of Services

  • Having a nice website is ideal for businesses offering specific services.  Let’s face it…no one comes into a doctor or lawyer’s office to check out their office furniture, or to see what reading material is in the lobby.  Your website will afford you the ability to describe in detail what you can do for potential customers and clients, and in a more entertaining format!  And a website is fluid, so you can update your services to match current trends and modern advances in your industry, indicating your business is cutting edge compared to competitors. 

Contact TheFinalCode.com today at (805)243-8321 today for advice or a free consultation!

Domain Name Scams and Scare Tactics! Preying on Internet-ignorant and naïve local merchants

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
January 7th, 2013

No one wants to be viewed as ignorant, or naïve, but it is difficult to keep up with the scams and scare tactics being used by some companies to take money from small business owners and operators. It was brought to our attention by one of our clients, at Jedlickas.com, that they received what appeared to be a bill from a company called DNS Services in Vancouver, Washington for some type of web page related expenses. Our client did the right thing by bringing this to our attention, we atTheFinalCode.com are their web marketing and production firm, and we have no affiliation with this “company”. The owners of Jedlickas.com have kindly encouraged us to share their experience in hopes other business owners will become more aware of such shady tactics.  DNS Services send out these documents attempting to collect money from unsuspecting business owners who may just pay because they receive what looks like a legitimate invoice. The notice appears official, including the actual web host information, a statement date, and an account number. But the very last line (which is always in very fine print) sums up what is actually owed by anyone who gets this type of letter…: Internet Scams

“THIS A SOLTCITATION FOR THE ORDER OF GOODS OR SERVICES, OR BOTH, AND NOT A BILL, INVOICE, OR STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT DUE. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO MAKE ANY PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT OF THIS OFFER UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER.”

     Of course, before getting to this disclaimer there is a load of other gibberish making it more confusing to the average business owners. They usually are preoccupied with so many other things to deal with; they may blindly fork over the cash!  It is unfortunate that con-artists will always look to find a way to make EASY money they don’t deserve from HARD working merchants making every attempt to do things the right way.

     Another seemingly legitimate bill-sender has jumped onboard the modern-day snake oil salesman’s virtual traveling wagon. The Yellow Pages has sent out what appears at first quick glance to be a bill, or an invoice. It is NOT! And you will end up paying almost $400 if you sign on to be included in a “Directory Listing” with “Yellow Pages United”. You will then be billed annually to maintain the listing, at a 10% increase EVERY YEAR! All this is in the fine print on the back side of the form and can be missed by anyone who does not READ IT CAREFULLY!

     So, to put it simply, if you do receive any document in the mail requesting payment for web related services, be sure to contact your web professional, (as our client did here at  TheFinalCode.com), and verify the authenticity and legitimacy before you end up paying what you don’t owe!

 

Below is a similar scam where others have had this same experience.

Online video marketing-something your business' website needs, NOW!

by Ventura County Now

December 21st, 2012


Why is online video content vital to your business' success? Well, it is becoming clearer that to make the most of the internet market, using video to sell a product is not the wave of the future, it is the wave of NOW. Consumers are using search engines to find goods and services online, and they want the best and easiest website providing what they need. A website with video saves them the effort of reading a ton of words and looking at bunch of photos to figure out if you have what they want. Online video can explain in an entertaining and informative way exactly what your business offers. It is no coincidence that YouTube is the second leading search engine, second only to GOOGLE. And any online video can be specially tailored to fit your unique business, with music, narration, or action to accentuate your products! Adding video content to any website is a bargain compared to advertising on television, radio or in publications. Online video can also boost the success of social network marketing, through the use of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and email marketing campaigns for businesses by including free online marketing video, which can be used to better explain precisely what they want to emphasize about their company and its products and/or services! Plus, online video doesn’t prohibit how many times your customers can watch it, or limit when, or where, they might see it. It becomes a permanent part of your website until you decide to change it. Educate your customers while keeping them entertained. They will be rewarded by having an easier experience online, and YOUR reward will be in the form of higher rankings from, search engines and longer periods of time on your site by your potential customers It’s probably the most cost effective way to share information, and it's fun and entertaining! Mention this blog to professionals at TheFinalCode.com, at 805-243-8321, and receive a free one hour consultation to find out tips and advice about how to put the power of online video to work for your business!

Blogging For Search Engine Optimization

by Ventura County Now

October 15th, 2012

I Don’t Know What To Blog About!

When we consult with clients about marketing their website we educated them about the importance of blogging and how it helps with search engine placement. Most business people claim they don’t what to write about.

What do I blog about? “Write about what is unique about your business and how your business benefits a potential customer in an educational way”

 It really is that simple. Of course, the challenging part is understanding and staying focused on the most important, otherwise known as highest payoff, topics.

Today it’s not enough to simply write brilliant stuff. Yes, that’s certainly one aspect, but you’ve also got to write brilliant stuff that addresses what your prospects want to know in ways that search engines and searchers alike find relevant.

A little bit of research can go a long way when trying to develop a content strategy based on winning search results for phrases and topics related to what you do.

 Keyword Research

Keyword research is a fundamental practice in the search engine optimization and marketing world. It’s how you determine what your pages need to say, it is how you determine what your competition for important search terms is doing to stay at the top of the rankings.

It’s also a great way to develop a body of primary topics for your editorial content calendar.

Below is a routine business owners should use over and over again to help sort out the precise body of topics that will produce the highest payoff in terms of search engine results.

 Google Keyword Tool

Next I take this list to a free tool like the Google Keyword Tool . I run the words or phrases into these tools and quickly start working on revising my brainstorming list based on actual search volume, competition and a host of related phrases that these tools feed me.

 Conduct Searches

Now take my revised list that is probably no more than ten phrases, to the Google. Plug each phrase in and note the page one results.

 Analyze the top results to make sure this is a place you want to land and create a list of what is now called “competition” for these phrases.  

 Website Content Feature

One last step to use is to return to Google Keyword tool and use the website content feature that allows you to run a keyword analysis not on a search phrase but on an actual URL.

Do this with many of the competitive sites to learn why Google thinks what they do about this page and drum up more related search term candidates.

From all of this research you can generally come up with a meaty list of topics that you need to blog about in a very optimized way. The only task now is to find ways to say some of the same things over and over again in highly interesting ways. I also employ a tool like Scribe in my writing to help keep me laser focused on the content strategy.

This isn’t the only way to do keyword research and I’m sure many of the SEO folks have great strategies and routines for accomplishing what was described here, but this is a way that works to find a natural balance between content and optimization.

We offer easy to follow and FREE Internet Marketing Workshops in Ventura, CA. Call us to today and learn how to blog like a pro and get more customers online!

Is your website’s production something you would rather not talk about?

by Ventura County Now

October 8th, 2012

Elephant in Room: The Final Code Internet Marketing Firm

Is your website’s production something you would rather not talk about?

Get a free website check-up to find out if potential customers are finding you and what they think about you if they do.

The Final Code is a local, Ventura California Internet marketing firm offering local businesses a way to cut through the confusion of advertising online. Call today and stop letting customers pass you by!

Get your website analysis today for FREE!

805-243-8321

Was your website supposed to save the day?

by Ventura County Now

October 3rd, 2012

Website Save the Day: Internet Marketing: The Final Code


Was your website supposed to save the day?


Get a free website check-up to see what your hero is really up to.





Let the professionals at The Final Code give you a FREE report on how your website is performing.

Our “Nerd Report” is normally priced at $155.00 is now FREE for the month of October!

Find out if your website is getting found by online shoppers

Find out if there are any errors that prevent you from capturing customers

Find out if your website is getting consumers to buy from you

And more!

Call today to schedule a FREE website check- up and start making money from your website and Internet marketing efforts!

805-243-8321

Internet Marketing Momentum – Imagine Your Business on Top on Google!

by Ventura County Now

September 27th, 2012

Internet Marketing Momentum – Imagine Your Business on Top on Google!

Nope… We are not some company from overseas trying pull a fast one. We are right here in Ventura on Main Street. We are locals helping locals.

Ventura internet marketing firm get found online

Please let this soak in… There are over 10 million Google searches for LOCAL goods and services in Ventura County every month!

Consumers are spending money!

Consumers are looking for your products or services online!

Are they finding you?

Ventura County Now, sponsored by The Final Code is launching a FREE exciting marketing program for local businesses only!

Ventura County Now is a local company and we are dedicated to supporting local businesses. Get your business signed up for our FREE Marketing Momentum Program and find out how it feels having your business on the first page of Google for FREE!

Ventura internet marketing firm stand out from the crowd

We want to show local businesses how to compete and WIN online!

How do we do it?

  • Limited Time Offer: Get a $155.00 Internet Marketing Class FREE!

Our experts give you a free Internet Marketing Workshop that helps you understand the simple (yet hidden) secrets you need to know to attract new customers!

  • Limited Time Offer: Get $100 Google Advertising Dollars FREE!

Ventura County Now gives you $100 dollars of FREE Google marketing credits that guarantee first page placement on Google in your business category! This will give your business a big boost of new customers!

  • Ongoing Support: While it’s not required we offer powerful Internet marketing solutions, website creations and productions provided by The Final Code. For these additional services, we offer low prices for local businesses that are guaranteed to bring in many customers from the Internet!

All workshops are held local in downtown Ventura and we offer evening and weekend time slots for your convenience!

Private workshops are available! This workshop focuses specifically on your business and only you and your employees are allowed to attend.

Call today and secure your spot to get a FREE workshop and FREE Google advertising! This offer won’t last forever. Call us at 805-243-8321 today! 

Phone Books Were Big Once Like the Dinosaurs - But, Now They're Extinct Too.

by Ventura County Now

September 21st, 2012

Phone Books are extinct like the dinosaurs: The Final Code Internet MarketingPhone Books Were Big Once Like the Dinosaurs - But, Now They're Extinct Too.

Or at the very least they should be. Why do they still deliver phone books?  No one uses them anymore. Shoppers today look for stuff online. While the shadow of extinction grows darker on the once rich with your money phone book companies, they are now scrambling to find different ways to continue to extort money from local businesses.

I don’t know about you, but I am glad I don’t have to be worried about getting eaten by a dinosaur. But what the local business owner should worry about is getting eaten alive by the phone book sales people trying to act like Internet marketing experts.

There are many horror stories given to us from local merchants of how a phone book sales person promised them websites and great search engine placements without even coming close to delivering.  The end result is the business owner spends a ton of money every month, doesn’t see the promised results, and can’t get ahold of the phonebook salesman to resolve the issue.

Maybe the phone book companies should just stick to delivering the phone book since they don’t have the know-how to deliver a successful web campaign? Or better yet, maybe they should gracefully accept the fact that their product is extinct and save some trees in the process?

If you want a website that delivers results don’t feed the dinosaur. Come to a free Internet Marketing Workshop sponsored by Ventura County Now and The Final Code and find out what really works and how to get more customers online.

And remember to spread the word: Please… Don’t Feed The Dinosaurs. 

Good Morning Sunshine! Google is Calling… Or Are They???

by Ventura County Now

September 18th, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine! Google is Calling… Or Are They???

You wake up one morning and head to work to run your business. You get to work and begin your busy day and you decide to check your voicemail.

One of the voicemails catches your complete attention. The voice on the recording says it is Chris from Google and your website has been flagged on Google Places for deletion. Chris goes on in a very official way to say he has tried to contact you previously by email and if this issue is not taken care of by 2:15pm today, your Google Places page will be taken down FOREVER!

 

Panic Time!

Immediately your heart rate jumps. You quickly go over in your mind the last time you checked your emails and wondering how sure are you that you even checked the junk folder. You start to think about all the calls you have been getting from your website since you moved into the top 3 organic search results for your keywords. You imagine all that business you will be losing, OH NO!

You listen again to the message a get and jot down the name, number and extension. You fumble to dial the phone and after a few rings, a nice woman picks up.

"Hello this is Google, Heather speaking, how may I direct your call?"

"I got this message that I would be deleted from Google by a guy named Chris at extension 212"

"Just one moment"

The line transfers and after a couple of rings, you have Chris on the phone.

"Hello this is Chris, may I have your phone number please"

"444-444-4444"

Relief Sets In…

"Okay sir, you have been flagged as a non-verified account, I will just need you to wait for another call, you will get a verification code. Call me right back and give that code to me and I can get this all cleared up for you."

Relief comes over you, you sure are glad you checked your voicemail before the 2:15 cutoff. You get the Google robot call with the verification, you call Chris back and give him the code and all is well, life can go back to normal and your Google top ranking is intact.

Now Here Comes the Bad News.

You have just been conned. Chris now calls you and tells you about a service he is offering from anywhere from 100-500$ per month to keep your Google Places page online. He does not work at Google; he is a pitch man/con man. You have given him authority over your page by giving him the code. You have a few options which all are bad. You can report him and wait for that to be resolved. You can pay him and be held hostage forever. You can start a new places page and lose your current ranking and page age. Or, you can just write off Google Places and the business it drives forever.

The Clues

This could have been easily avoided. All con artists give clues to their true purpose and who they really are. The one thing they play on is the urgency and emotion created by their calls.

In this instance I will give a few reasons you should have been suspicious from the beginning.

1. Google called you? Really? It is best to assume that a multi-billion dollar company isn't going to spend the time to call you. They would delete it and wait for you to call them.

2. When you called you got ahold of someone! A corporation of this size will normally have a long wait time.

3. They ask you to verify information that you already verified. Google are not a bunch of dummies, they have any information you previously provided.

4. A simple search tells you what you need to know. Doing a simple search will bring up various similar cons attempted and how people have been taken by them. Sometimes even the same phone number will have been used.

Conclusion

In your day to day operations, you probably don’t always have time or energy to figure out what is what when it comes to your website on Google or anywhere else. It always pays to have a website SEO company looking out for you and your interests. They will always be able to point out these types of scams in a second and put your mind at ease.

Ventura County Now sponsored by The Final Code wants to help! Attend a free workshop and learn what to watch out for and how to market your business online.

Call 805-243-8321 for the FREE workshop time slots today.

Internet marketing is so big and confusing that many local businesses

by Ventura County Now

September 17th, 2012

Want to Make Your Internet World Smaller?

The world of Internet marketing is so big and confusing that many local businesses don’t even know where to start to tap into the millions of consumers shopping online.

It is easy for local businesses to feel small and insignificant when it comes to competing online with major corporations.

We want to help. Ventura County Now , sponsored by The Final Code, is now offering FREE Internet Marketing Classes to help local businesses get more customers online.

Call today to sign up! It’s free and you will learn how to get more customers!

Whether you currently have a website that is not performing or you are considering getting a website, these classes will give you the competitive edge!

Come learn how to market online like a big corporations and a small business budget.

Classes include:

  • How to Get High Rankings on Search Engines,
  • How to Attract More Customers Online
  • How to Take Advantage of Social Media Marketing
  • How to Build a Successful Website and much more!

Don’t wait the Internet World is passing you by!

 

Call Today @ 805-243-8321

Ventura County Now                          

We support local business! 

Free Internet Marketing Classes!

by David Williams

Ventura County Now Staff
August 28th, 2012

Ventura County Now sponsored by The Final Code, Ventura County’s premiere internet production and marketing firm, is now offering FREE classes on how to successfully launch a powerful web based marketing campaign on any budget!

  • How to create a great website
  • How to market online without wasting your money
  • How to get your business found by the over 10 million local Google searches online each month in Ventura County!
  • Social Media marketing
  • How search engines work
  • How to blog for business
  • The power of You Tube

There will be many more topics and classes geared to help you, the local merchant bring more customers to your businesses.

Introductory classes are FREE. Our philosophy is we offer free services and classes to help local merchants get found online where all of today’s customers shop for goods and services. We hope are efforts are appreciated and if your business ever wants to increase your web based marketing efforts, we trust you will call us and let us create a campaign for you.

Classes begin in Septamber!

Please RSVP as soon as possible! Space is limited!

Call 805-243-8321

www.VenturaCountyNow.com

www.TheFinalCode.com

2011 Was a Big Year For Social Media

by David Williams

Ventura County Now Staff
August 6th, 2012

2011 Was a Big Year For Social Media

The "Big Three," Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn got bigger. Hundreds, maybe thousands of other social networks flourished. Social media is not just a fad. Instead, it's become clear social media is here to stay. It has fundamentally changed the way we do business and the way we document our everyday lives. One in every nine people on Earth are on Facebook and people spend over 700 billion minutes a month sharing photos and status updates.

Despite its name, social media success has nothing at all to do with media; it’s all about the community within which you do your business. Social media works because people realize that they trust each other more than they do the companies that try to sell you products.

 The key to exploiting this new reality is to continuously listen to and evaluate what people feel, think and say about your company, and respond to these perceptions appropriately.

 With all the tools available online, you can jump in and start measuring virtually everything about your social media activities.

These measurements are popular and normally easy to understand, but by themselves don’t lead to useful strategic action and so may not be worth much. For example, marketers may be tempted to focus on measuring the so-called “three Fs” (friends, fans and followers).

But, knowing these figures provide little help in determining how effective a social media campaign is. Following are five useful measurements that will help you assess your social media performance.

 

  • Conversational Exchange is the number of replies or comments to each post. This is a key metric that reveals engagement and interaction, the pillars of social networking. By tracking responses to your tweets, posts and status updates you’ll be able to get a better view of which topics resonate with your audiences and which approach is most effective in engaging them. You can then adjust your posts to get maximum interaction.

 

  • Reach is the size of the network directly accessed by your posts. This is your primary audience, consisting of people who directly interact with your brand or take on the call to action. Earlier I mentioned that you shouldn’t focus solely on vanity metrics, and network size is one of these. But, when combined with other measurement points, these particular vanity metrics can be extremely useful. Reach, for example, when combined with conversational exchange allows you to prepare a launch pad for taking your campaigns viral. The larger your reach, the greater the potential for conversational exchanges to snowball into a huge groundswell.

 

  • Content Amplification is the number of shares for each post. This measure takes advantage of the fact that each node on your network is itself the start of another network, and your posts and updates gain momentum by being shared outside your immediate network. On Twitter this takes the form of retweets.

 

  • Sentiment is the feelings expressed by others toward your post or update. In reality sentiment is much harder to gauge and is not easily evident in social media. But by using tools such as Isis Toolbox, it is possible to approximate and monitor what people may be feeling toward your brand.

 

  • Content Appreciation may easily be mistaken with sentiment, but it has a narrower field of focus. On Facebook it’s conveyed by the Like button. On Twitter, great content is designated as “favorites.” And on Google + people can hit the +1 button to express their appreciation.

 

Social media marketing is not always an easy task for companies to manage; most companies don't have the staff in place to help them with their online marketing initiatives. That’s why The Final Code offers comprehensive Social Media solutions for businesses in need of marketing assistance.

 

 

Search Engine Optimization 101

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 2nd, 2012

Search Engine Optimization 101

Content Quality

More than anything else, are you producing quality content? If you’re selling something, do you go beyond being only a brochure with the same information that can be found on hundreds of other sites?

Do you provide a reason for people to spend more than a few seconds reading your pages?

Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, anything unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?

These are just some of the questions to ask yourself in assessing whether you’re providing quality content. Do provide it, because it is literally the cornerstone upon which other factors depend.

Content Research / Keyword Research

Perhaps the most important SEO tactic after creating good content is good keyword research. There are a variety of tools that allow you to easily, and for free, discover the ways that people may be searching for your content.

You want to create content using those keywords, the search terms people are using. That effectively lets your content “answer” them.

For example, a page about “Avoiding Melanoma” may be using technical jargon to describe ways to prevent the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If people are searching for “skin cancer prevention tips,” then writing in the wrong “language” might cause search engines to skip your content as a possible answer.

Create content that speaks to what people are searching for, that uses the language that they themselves are using.

 Content Words / Use Of Keywords

Having done your keyword research (you did that, right?), have you actually used those words in your content? Or if you’ve already created some quality content before doing research, perhaps it’s time to revisit that material and do some editing.

Bottom line: if you want your pages to be found for particular words, it’s a good idea to actually use those words in your copy.

How often? Repeat each word you want to be found for at least five times or seek out a keyword density of 2.45%, for best results.

OK, that was a joke. There’s no precise number of times, and even if “keyword density” sounds scientific, honest, even if you hit some promised “ideal” percentage, that would guarantee nothing.

Just use common sense. Think about the words you want a page to be found for, the words you especially feel are relevant from your keyword research. Then use them naturally on the page. If you commonly shift to pronouns on a second and further references, maybe use the actual noun again here and there, rather than a pronoun.

Content Engagement

If you’ve written quality content, then users will be engaging with it. To determine that, search engines may try to measure engagement in a variety of ways.

For example, did someone search, find your page in the listings, click through but then immediately “bounce” back to the results to try something else? That can be a sign that your content isn’t engaging. It’s also a metric search engines can measure.

Are people sending a relatively long time reviewing your content, in relation to similar content on other sites? That “time on site” metric is another thing that search engines can measure, such as through toolbars that both Google and Bing offer.

Social “likes” of the Facebook type and other varieties are another way that engagement might be measured, and we’ll cover these more in the Social section of this guide.

Search engines are typically cagey about if they use engagement metrics much, much less exactly what metrics they may use. But we do think it is a factor being measured in several ways. Success here is highly linked to the quality of your content.

Content Freshness

No you can’t just update your pages every day thinking that will make them “fresh” and thus more likely to rank better with search engines. Nor can you just add new pages on anything constantly and think that gives you a freshness boost, either.

However, Google does have something it calls Query Deserved Freshness. This means that if there’s a search that’s suddenly getting unusually popular versus its normal activity for some reason, Google will look to see if there’s any fresh content on that topic and give it a boost toward the top results.

If you’ve got the right content, on the right topic when QDF hits, you may enjoy being in the top results for a week or two or three. Just be aware that after that, your page might disappear. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just that the freshness boost has worn off.

Learn What the Experts Know in Internet Marketing

by David Williams

Ventura County Now Staff
May 7th, 2012

THE FINAL CODE

Stand Out in the Crowd!

Trade Secrets Revealed! Learn What the Experts Know in Internet Marketing for Free! Smart Internet Marketing = Big Return on Investment!

When internet marketing is concerned, the biggest investment can be the time spent in research to determine how to launch and maintain a success campaign. There is a lot of information regarding internet marketing that can be confusing, and overwhelming.  Questions like, what is SEO? What is the difference between organic SEO and pay per click? Why is social media important? What are back links and why are they important? What is the difference between a dynamic site and static site? Do I own my own URL? What is web hosting? How do get the most out of video on my site? Do I need e-commerce? How do I launch an e-mail marketing campaign? What is the best way to capture customers? The list goes on and on and many throw their hands up in the air and give up.

The Final Code helps make internet marketing and production simple with concise and easy to understand steps that anyone can assimilate and put into action to create a steady stream of new customers.

The problem is if a business gives up on internet marketing or don’t market effectively, “in the know” competition will gladly take the lion share of online customers. The bottom line is internet marketing is hot and it’s only getting hotter. Those with the knowledge and know how will win and their business will grow and thrive while there competitors are left in financial despair.

Be “In The Know.” The Final Code is a local internet marketing and production firm that is dedicated to help local small businesses “crack the code” to the sometimes intimidating world of internet marketing. Local small business owners will now have the opportunity to attend FREE classes on how to effectively market on the web in a cost effective, easy manner.

“Our goal is to help local businesses tap into the incredible business generating world of internet marketing”, says Dave Williams, Marketing Director for The Final Code. “We have found that many small businesses have not launched a success internet marketing campaign simply because they didn’t fully understand how to do so or they were intimidated by the cost. We are focused on creating an avenue in which any business, even with the smallest of advertising budgets, can launch a powerful web presence. Let’s face it. Many customers are passing by local businesses because today’s customer searches for goods and services online. If a potential customer can’t find a business online they will bring their dollars to a business that does.”

The fact is not enough nowadays to simply create a website. It is essential that a website is properly promoted through search engines like Google, Bing, You Tube, Yahoo, and through Social Media avenues like Facebook, My Space and Twitter.  In addition there are many other effective and affordable methods of internet marketing.

The Final Code desires to share trade secrets with local businesses so they can effectively compete in today’s fast moving internet market place.

That is why The Final Code is now offering free classes in downtown Ventura for local businesses. Topics in the classes range from Internet Marketing 101, where small business owners can learn the basic workings of internet marketing, to Search Engine Optimization, Blogging and Social Media marketing which provides the attendees valuable insights in creating new customers online.

Space is limited to these free classes. Contact The Final Code at 805-243-8321 for more info and to reserve your spot today!

Do you really own your domain?

by Ventura County Now

March 5th, 2012

Over the years I’ve run into this problem a lot. People or businesses think they own their domain name to later then find out they don’t. Let’s say you’ve found this great domain name that fits your business, keyword-rich and great for SEO. It perfectly fits your website’s image and all is going well. It’s your business name, what could happen? Now for some reasons you need to move your website to another host… Surprise, suprise! Your web host is the domain name owner. Your website and/or email could go down or your website could be held hostage. All of these can make for a really bad week. However, your website address or domain name is most likely on all your company publications – business cards, letterhead, brochures, signage, other websites. So for you not to have access to one of your most prized web properties is not benefiting you at all. If you don’t own it, it can be sold or hijacked and all traffic destined for your website will go elsewhere!

FYI – it is common for web agencies, to bundle domain and hosting with website packages and order it for you either as an affiliate or reseller of domain registration and hosting services.  One rule of thumb almost always applies: never register your domain name at the same place you’re hosting your website. I do happen to register my domain names at the same place when the web host offers free registration and I’m 100% sure that I will be owning the domain name. One example of a web host where I would register my domain name is GoDaddy.com. They are one of the largest registrars on the web and they can be trusted.

So, how do you avoid falling into this trap? Simple! Buy your own domain name and keep a record of your account information. Though, I beg you to get help from someone, to make sure you buy the best domain name(s) for your needs.

How do I know if I own my domain name? It’s easy to find out if your domain name is truly yours. Follow this link http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp and enter your domain name. This will display all of the domain data (a Who is report). The one piece of information you should focus on is the Registrant. This should have your information. This is the owner of the domain name. There will also be other information such as who the domain was registered through (ex. GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Network Solutions.com, etc.) and expiration. If you name appears, you’re good to go. Just don’t forget the expiration. If your domain expires your website and any email through that domain will go down. In addition to that, it may cost you a lot more money to get it back.

What if you are NOT the registrant? You will need to contact the person or company that is the registrant. Hopefully they’ll be nice and transfer the domain over to you. Unfortunately, if they choose to be trolls about it, you may need to call a lawyer and have them send a letter.

Unfortunately, this happens more than you would think and I’ve had customers not get their domains back or had to pay premium prices to get their domains back. This can really damage your business online. So make sure you own your domain.

7 New Ways to Improve Your Google Rankings

by Robert McMurray

Blog Writer
October 31st, 2011

Wondering how to respond to Google’s recent algorithm changes (known as Panda)?

Keep reading to find out.

A bit of history

In an interview with Wired MagazineUdi Manber, Google’s head of search, said that Google will make as many as 550 changes to its search algorithm this year. One of the bigger changes happened this past winter in what has been called the Panda or Farmer update.

According to a report by Sistrix.com, within days of the update, a number of very large websites saw their Google rankings take a drastic drop. Sites such asEzinearticles.com and Suite101.com lost 90% or more of their visibility on Google. 

sistrix chart

This Sistrix table shows the domain and the percentage loss since Google's change.

Although a 90% drop in visibility may seem extreme, it was a direct result of Google’s attempts to weed out content farms (websites with high-volume, low-quality content) and those trying to game the system. In the process, a number of unsuspecting websites got caught in the fray.

For the average small business owner, stories like this can be concerning. It’s hard enough to move to the top of the Google search rankings, let alone keep up with the constantly evolving magic that makes Google work.

However, for those looking to build quality websites that achieve high Google search results, nothing has really changed. As always, the key is to focus on publishing high-quality content that readers will want to share.

Here are 7 tips to help your business move to the top of the Google search rankings.

#1: It’s all about the user

It’s important to remember that the reason for the continually changing algorithms and updates is that Google has one objective—to provide the highest quality, most relevant search results possible. If they fail to do so, competitors such as Bing and Facebook are nipping at their heels ready to take up the slack.

Google is not out to penalize websites or hurt website owners. They want to ensure that users find the information they seek on the first try.

When it comes to search engine rankings and improving SEO, start by looking at the site from the perspective of the user searching Google. Does your site provide the best, most relevant information for a given search term and if not, what can you do to fix it?

Google’s Amit Singhal, head of Google’s core ranking team, provided 23 questions to consider when evaluating web content. These are some of the same questions that Google is using to test algorithms and evaluate websites using third-party beta testers. The questions provide an excellent insight into Google’s perspective and a tool to analyze your website from the user’s point of view.

#2: Content: Focus on quality over quantity

In an earlier post I wrote on how to increase your Google ranking, I talked about using blogs to increase the number of pages indexed in Google. And while it still holds true that more pages indexed for a given search term gives you a better chance of achieving a high Google rank, it isn’t enough just to publish text optimized for keywords. The quality of the content is now a factor.

words

Using the list of 23 questions will help you assess the quality of your content.

Since the Panda update, Google has attempted to screen out those publishing high-volume, low-quality content. Now, in the eyes of Google, it’s better to have fewer high-quality pages then lots of low-quality pages.

Blogging is still one of the best ways to move up the search engine rankings as it is a good way to add high-quality information to a website. However, web pages or blog posts offering little of value can now negatively impact a website. Removing these pages might actually help a website move up the rankings or recover from a drop in ranking.

#3: Links: Focus on quality over quantity

Incoming links have always looked good in the eyes of Google. As a result, one way to move a site up the search engine rankings was to generate a high number of incoming links all pointing to a given web page.

As Google places higher and higher value on the quality of the content, this tactic is not as effective, and can even harm a website’s ranking if overdone.

For the small business website owner, this should come as good news. Instead of generating 50 articles with subpar content, website owners can now focus on creating fewer high-quality articles or incoming links, as Google is no longer placing much value in links from article distribution sites such as Ezine.com.

In another article on ways to improve your blog SEO with inbound links, I suggested that press releases were a good way to generate incoming links because distribution services often generated back-links as articles were placed on various press release syndication websites. This link-building strategy has also changed post-Panda update, as these links are not as highly valued as they once were. However, a well-written press release can still be very effective when picked up and reported by a journalist or major publication.

Focus on getting high-quality links from high-quality websites. Guest posting is still an excellent way to generate high-quality incoming links. If possible, try to wrap links in important keywords. For example, as a content marketing copywriter, a link around “content marketing copywriter” would be more effective than a link wrapped around my name.

#4: Make the most of social media, social sharing and social search

It’s hard to tell exactly how much impact Twitter and Facebook have on Google search results, but at the very least we know that Google is providing real-time social sharing in the search results.

Google’s addition of the Google +1 button and the ability of Google users to block sites take this a step further. Although it’s still unclear how Google is using the +1 button in their algorithms, they have stated publicly that users blocking a site can have a negative impact on returns. This again demonstrates the importance of high-quality content.

#5: Let the search engines know you’re there

Once you’ve published high-quality content, it’s important to tell Google about the content and make it easy for users to find. This means that meta titles and descriptions should closely match the content on the page.

Keyword stuffing and intentionally filling meta descriptions with keywords that don’t match the page in an attempt to deceive will only hurt your search engine results. The closer the match, the better.

It’s also important to make the most of the SERP, the short paragraph showing in the Google search returns. Use this space to provide a clear description of the content and encourage users to click through to your site.

serp

Be sure your meta description matches the post and encourages users to click through. This is what shows in the Search Engine Results Page or SERP.

#6: The truth behind duplicate content

It’s not that Google penalizes websites for duplicate content; Google just doesn’t show it in the search results. Remember what I said in the beginning about providing the best possible search returns. When it comes to duplicate content, that’s all Google is doing.

Instead of showing 20 pages with the same content, Google tries to present the most relevant and original content and omit the rest. Users can still view omitted search returns, they just need to make an effort and most won’t.

This only becomes a problem if you’re using canned content or directly publishing RSS feeds from other websites. Content of this sort might be seen as low-quality and result in lower Google returns. Hopefully the days of stolen web content and RSS scrapers will soon be a thing of the past.

#7: Don’t overdo the advertising

Too much advertising can also result in lower Google rankings. This again is a result of Google’s attempts to improve search results for the user. Google tends to equate an overabundance of advertising to lower-quality or “spam” websites.

ads

Excessive advertising can also hurt your Google returns. Note how the actual content on this site isn't even visible above the fold. This website is also "scraping" content from Social Media Examiner which can also hurt search engine ranking.

Be sure that advertising does not interfere with the content on the page. This is especially important with advertising above the fold and within the text.

Google is constantly evolving, but the fundamentals of SEO will always remain the same. High-quality content that people want to share will always do well in the eyes of Google. Search Engine Land has put together a free guide that will help you gain traffic from search engines such as Google and Bing.

periodic table of seo

"Search Engine Land has created a Periodic Table of 'SEO Ranking Factors.' Notice the importance placed on content.

 

By: Jim Lodico

Want to Create a Free Website? Think Again...

by Robert McMurray

Blog Writer
October 24th, 2011

This article may sound a little harsh to you.  It's not meant to be as I am just stating the facts from my own experiences. 

Mark my words: If you use a free host for your business you are making a huge mistake. Period.

I don't thinkmany people realize the number of disadvantages that go along with creating free websites. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the subject.

Don't make the same mistake I did. After this nightmare, I vowed to never go the "free route" again. Creating your site from scratch with its own domain name (yoursite.com) is affordable and definitely worth the small investment.

Parking your site at a free host is often like building a house on sand.  It may be quick and and it may seem easy at first, but I can almost guarantee you it won't last long.

Disadvantages of Free Web Hosts

  • Limited web page space
  • Can't add interactive features (chat rooms, message boards, games, online ordering etc.)
  • Search engines often ignore them (Your traffic will be limited)
  • Your visitors may doubt your credibility
  • May have banners and/or pop ads on your homepage and/or all of your pages
  • Long and hard-to-remember web address (instead of yourdomain.com)
  • No guarantees of site availability and longevity
  • No branded emails addresses (you@yourdomain.com)
  • Poor help and support options (if any)
  • May not be free forever

Advantages of Owning Your Own Dot Com Name

  • Easy to remember website address (yourdomain.com)
  • No banners or popups
  • Easier to get listed in search engines (Google, Yahoo etc.)
  • You have more control over the look and feel of your website.
  • Multiple branded email addresses (you@yourdomain.com)
  • Plenty of web page space for site expansion
  • Looks more professional
  • More flexibility for design and functionality

You might be tempted to create a free website because you don't want to spend any money. Trust me. I'd rather you wait until you've saved some money than start your site on a free host and then switch later.

Free Websites & Making Money Online Don't Mix

It amazes me how many people tell me that they want to start a business website but don't want to spend any money. 

I personally don't know of a single successful website owner that created their business website on a free host.

If you were starting an offline business, you'd plan on investing some money right?  Well, doing business on the web is no different despite many beliefs.  If you don't plan to invest anything to start a business then I'd have to question your drive.

I've been making money on the Internet for over a decade and I have YET to read a success story from someone hosting their site on Blogger.com, Yola, and Weebly. It's no coincidence that successful people own their own domains.

Plus, you can't expect people to take you or your site seriously if your website address starts with something like is http://myfreesite...

And if the address doesn't tip your visitor's off, the banners and pop-ups you'll be forced to display sure will.  Also, the templates they provide are generally very basic and lacking a professional appearance.

Think about it. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious if the web address of a business was something like http://members.aol.com/users/myhomepage.html with pop-ups and banners instead of www.companyABC.com?

Web surfers are becoming much more Internet savvy and they can smell a "cheap site" a mile away.  You don't want to lose credibility and potential customers because of the unprofessional feel.

Any time someone sends me their "business" site on Blogger.com I immediately discredit the site. Sorry, but that's what most people do. Free web hosts just aren't taken seriously.

Not to mention, you can only do so much with them. So if you want to add shopping carts, order forms and additional interactive features you probably won't be able to do this because most free hosting companies don't offer that kind of functionality.

More Problems Free Website Hosters May Encounter

It is quite expensive for these companies to run a free hosting service because the company has to pay for the space and the bandwidth (traffic) to host thousands of web sites. And since they offering these sites for free, some companies find themselves losing money very quickly. 

They try to keep their service free by slapping banners on the member's pages, hoping that people will click and purchase products...but think about it...how many banners have you clicked on lately?

Exactly.

Then some may try to redeem themselves by charging a "small" fee for their service. And of course, if you aren't willing to pay for your site, you can say "bye bye" to all of your hard work. 

If you haven't read my story, here it is again.

Almost all free website providers let you know in their terms and conditions that there are NO GUARANTEES when it comes to keeping your website available.  Which means they reserve the right to remove your site at anytime, regardless of how much work you've put into it.

The Best Way to Build a Website

My recommendation is to register your own domain (dot com) name and build your site from scratch.

The registration process is very easy.  You're able to search the Internet's domain name database until you find a name that hasn't been taken.  Within seconds you can reserve it and it's yours for as long as you want.

Once you have the name you want, you'll need a place to create your web pages.  A web hosting company will provide you with the help you need in this area.  You'll be happy to know that the hosting options recommended here provide top notch support.

Just do yourself a favor and try it. If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Social Network Comments Fuel Offline Behavior

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 17th, 2011

Comments on social sites about brands and products are encouraging users to take action

 

Social networks are becoming a part of everyday life for many users, and their offline habits are affected by their participation.

In November 2010, the Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed US social network users for the “Social Network Sites and Our Lives” report, released in June 2011, and found that 31% of social network users are on Facebook several times a day. Additionally, 21% of respondents use the site about once a day. This is followed by Twitter, which 20% of social network users check several times a day and 13% use about once a day.

As consumers use these social sites several times a day or week, they are also commenting on posts from friends just as often. The Pew study found that 26% of female Facebook users and 17% of male Facebook users comment on Facebook posts at least once a day. Further, the study found that 57% of female Facebook users and 48% of male Facebook users comment on posts at least once a week.

 

Frequency with Which US Facebook Users Comment on Facebook Posts, by Gender, Nov 2010 (% of respondents)

 

But social network users are not just responding on social media. The April 2011 “S-Net: The Impact of Social Media” study by ROI Researchfound that 60% of US social network users were at least somewhat likely to take action when a friend posted something about a product, service, company or brand on a social media site. Only 18% were not at all likely to take action.

The study doesn’t elaborate on what exactly respondents would do, but another question asked specifically what actions US social network users would be more likely to take after following a company or product on Facebook or Twitter. On Facebook, 53% of respondents said the top activities would be purchasing the brand or company’s product and recommending the company or product. For Twitter, the top activities were talking about the company or product (61%), recommending the company or product (59%) and purchasing the brand or company’s product (58%).

 

Activities that US Social Network Users Are More Likely to Do After They Follow a Company or Products on Facebook or Twitter, April 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Fans or followers of a brand are influenced by what they see from these company accounts, but they are also influenced by what their friends say about brands or companies that they don’t necessarily follow. It’s another area for marketers to focus on—the reach they have and how their brand fans may influence their own friends and followers.

 By:eMarketer

8 Ways Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 10th, 2011

As we head into our Social Media Day festivities, we’d like to take a look at the effect social media has had on our daily lives.

We asked you to show us how social media had changed your life through our partnership with CNN’s iReport, and received so many wonderful, honest responses. We selected a few of our favorite submissions to display here, but you can see all of them on theiReport assignment page.

Here’s a look at some of the best photo and video submissions. We encourage you to share your own social media stories in the comments below. You can also see the featured submissions selected by iReport in their post.

“Social media has not only allowed me to change careers, it has allowed me to create a new career — my dream career — that never existed. I had a dream to transition from a design engineer to someone that inspires engineers and helps them break out of their technical shells and enjoy their personal and professional lives. Social media made it all possible,” said Anthony Fasano of Ridgewood, NJ.

“During the Vancouver riots, I was at home and using social media to help people figure out what was going on. It was unbelievable and we were totally embarrassed by it,” Jon Mezzabarba of Vancouver said.

Social media really changed the life by Matt Sky, a web designer in New York City.

Nicholas Pegues works for the Shelby County Election Commission and is active in local politics in Memphis. He says Facebook has allowed him to make connections with others and with notables.

 


About Social Media Day


Social Media Day is a global celebration of the technological advancements that enable everyone to connect with real-time information, communicate from miles apart and have their voices be heard. We invite you to connect with fellow web enthusiasts by hosting aSocial Media Day Meetup in your area. There’s no better way to celebrate the revolution of media becoming a social dialogue than by socializing with your online community offline.

 By:Chelsea Stark

'Like' Button Follows Web Users

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 26th, 2011

Internet users tap Facebook Inc.'s "Like" and Twitter Inc.'s "Tweet" buttons to share content with friends. But these tools also let their makers collect data about the websites people are visiting.

These so-called social widgets, which appear atop stories on news sites or alongside products on retail sites, notify Facebook and Twitter that a person visited those sites even when users don't click on the buttons, according to a study done for The Wall Street Journal.

These widgets are prolific. They have been added to millions of web pages in the past year. Facebook's buttons appear on a third of the world's 1,000 most-visited websites, according to the study. Buttons from Twitter and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG - News) appear on 20% and 25% of those sites, respectively.

The widgets, which were created to make it easy to share content with friends and to help websites attract visitors, are a potentially powerful way to track Internet users. They could link users' browsing habits to their social-networking profile, which often contains their name.

For example, Facebook or Twitter know when one of their members reads an article about filing for bankruptcy on MSNBC.com or goes to a blog about depression called Fighting the Darkness, even if the user doesn't click the "Like" or "Tweet" buttons on those sites.

For this to work, a person only needs to have logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month. The sites will continue to collect browsing data, even if the person closes their browser or turns off their computers, until that person explicitly logs out of their Facebook or Twitter accounts, the study found.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other widget-makers say they don't use browsing data generated by the widgets to track users; Facebook says it only uses the data for advertising purposes when a user clicks on a widget to share content with friends.

Facebook and Google, which has a widget for its "Buzz" social-networking service, say they "anonymize" browsing data so the information is not traced to a particular user. Facebook says the data are deleted within 90 days, while Google says data are deleted within two weeks.

Facebook and Google say they use the information to measure the widgets' effectiveness and help other websites attract visitors.

Twitter says it doesn't use such browsing data and deletes it "quickly." A spokesman says the company could in theory use the data to "surface better content" for users in the future.

Revelations about the social widgets come amid growing concern about the privacy of Internet and smartphone users. Members of Congress have introduced at least five privacy-related bills this year, including three that aim to create a mechanism that would let users disable tracking.

Some privacy advocates express concerns, citing prior Facebook and Google stumbles over privacy issues.

"Our reading habits online encompass everything we're thinking about, political and religious views, health and relationship problems," said Peter Eckersley, a senior technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-advocacy group. "Do you want to have an invisible person peering over your shoulder as you walk through the library?"

Widget makers say the collection of users' Web-browsing activity is an unintended side effect of how the tools work. In order to show a user which of their online friends "liked" a particular article, for example, the widget must know who the user is.

To determine the prevalence of widgets and how they collect information, the Journal asked Brian Kennish, a former Google engineer, to examine the 1,000 most-popular websites, as ranked by Google's advertising network. Mr. Kennish last year launched Disconnect Inc., which offers software to block data collection by widgets.

510socialAwareness.jpg

Mr. Kennish's study examined more than 200,000 Web pages on the top 1,000 sites. He found Facebook obtained browsing data from 331 sites, and Google obtained data from 250 sites, some of it from its Buzz widget. Twitter got browsing information from about 200 sites.

Social-sharing widgets first appeared about five years ago, when online services such as Digg Inc. allowed users to share news articles. At the time, widgets did not cause browsing data to be collected by social sites. Widgets are installed by website owners, who like them because they can help generate more Web traffic.

Last year, Facebook introduced the "Like" button and other "smart" widgets. The widgets work with cookies that Facebook places in a Web browser when a user creates an account or logs in to its site. Together, they allow Facebook to recognize its users on any site with Facebook widgets.

Bret Taylor, Facebook's chief technology officer, says the technology lets websites show visitors what articles their friends liked, for example. "We don't use them for tracking and they're not intended for tracking," he says.

But Facebook says it still places a cookie on the computer of anyone who visits the Facebook.com home page, even if the user isn't a member. Mr. Taylor says Facebook uses such cookies to protect the site from cyberattacks by people who try to break in to users' accounts, among other things.

Until recently, some Facebook widgets also obtained browsing data about Internet users who had never visited Facebook.com, though Facebook wouldn't know their identity. The company says it discontinued that practice, which it described as a "bug," earlier this year after it was disclosed by a researcher in the Netherlands.

 

By: Amir Efrati

Older Facebook Users Catching On to ‘Liking’ Brands

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 19th, 2011

Users ages 55 and up increasingly likely to connect with companies

 

It took older web users a few years to begin social networking after it had been popularized by the younger set, but they soon became the fastest-growing segment of users on sites like Facebook. Now it appears they are also growing into a specific social media habit that had been more popular among younger adults: connecting with brands.

As recently as September 2010, based on research from Wedbush Securities, it seemed as if Facebook engagement with brands just might not interest users over age 55. At that point, only about one in four of Facebook’s oldest users had “liked” a brand on the site, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 34.

By November 2010, over-55s had begun to close the gap, however, and by April 2011, nearly half were connecting with brands. Engagement had also risen among 18- to 34-year-olds as well as the 35-to-54 age group over the period. Overall, 59% of adult Facebook users had “liked” a brand as of April, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise.

 

US Facebook Users Who "Like" Brands on Facebook, by Age, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Increased engagement among older boomers and seniors suggests that Facebook users of all ages have some interest in connecting with brand pages, rather than appealing only to young adults. Since most older Facebook users still have not “liked” a brand, there could still be room to grow in this demographic. The climbing level of activity among the middle age group indicates that younger boomers could have just as much potential social engagement with brands as millennials and Gen Xers.

Typically, social media users report connecting with brands to get deals and discounts, as well as information about products and special offers. But what brand fans expect can vary. For example, affluent social media users tended to follow brands because of a preexisting affinity for them, and a desire to be kept informed. Many older users will fall into this group, due to the point they have reached in their careers and their longer opportunity to build up net worth.

 

eMarketer

Canada Edges Out US in Smartphone Penetration

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 12th, 2011

More advanced devices means more access to mobile coupons, barcodes

 

The rise of the smartphone has accelerated mobile marketing around the world. Though that rise has happened at different paces from country to country, the pace in Canada has picked up, with smartphones currently in the hands of a third of mobile users. For the many brands that manage their mobile presence in both the US and Canada, it pays to know how usage is developing north of the border.

According to comScore, there were 6.6 million smartphone owners in Canada as of March 2011, or 33% of the total mobile subscriber base. This places Canada among the world’s leaders in smartphone adoption, narrowly edging out the US, where eMarketer estimates 31% of mobile owners have a smart device. A March survey conducted by Quorus Consulting for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Associationmirrors that figure, also finding that 33% of Canada’s mobile phone users have a smartphone.

 

Traditional Mobile Phone vs. Smartphone Users in Canada, by Age, March 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Meanwhile, related research by Ipsos Reid expands the smartphone base to nearly a third of all internet users in Canada, a figure which has grown more than 50% since early 2010.

Younger generations are leading the shift, as 46% of internet users ages 18 to 34 have already made the switch to smartphones, according to Ipsos. The CWTA found that penetration spikes at 55% among mobile phone users ages 18 to 24.

Usage is likewise growing more sophisticated. Talking is now a secondary consideration, with the Ipsos survey finding that 54% of all smartphone usage is for something other than voice calls. One-fifth of Canada’s smartphone owners access the internet on their devices more than 5 hours per week.

Smartphones are also helping to spread awareness of QR codes and other barcode formats. According to the CWTA, 65% of smartphone users are aware of 2-D barcodes, while 28% have scanned one with their phone.

For marketers, the smartphone’s emergence means that Canada’s mobile base grows more viable as an advertising channel with each passing month. The CWTA survey found that 19% of smartphone users would be interested in receiving mobile coupons in exchange for viewing ads, compared to only 9% of feature phone users. When asked about interest in location-based mobile offers, the figure jumped to 44% of smartphone users.

 

Interest in Select Mobile Ad Offers According to Mobile Phone Users in Canada, by Gender, March 2011 (% of respondents in each group)

 

“[Smartphone growth] is transforming the way Canadians interact with each other and with brands, offering businesses new and innovative ways to connect with their customers,” said Steve Mossop, president of Ipsos Reid’s Western Canada practice, in a statement. “Marketers need to consider how mobile fits in to their overall plans of how to reach consumers if they are going to succeed in the digital marketplace.”

 

eMarketer

 

How ICANN’s Approval of New Domains Will Change the Web

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 1st, 2011

The final barrier to a new era for the Internet was lifted Monday morning, when the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted 13 to 3 in favor of introducing new top-level domains (TLDs) to compete with .com, .net, .org and country codes like .ca and .mx.

The vote, held in Singapore before a thousand-strong audience of tech insiders and broadcast live online, was met with a standing ovation. A core deliverable of ICANN since its inception, new TLDs have been the subject of six years of intense debate contributing to ICANN’s bottom-up approach to policy making. As one board member put it, “every imaginable aspect has been examined six ways from Sunday.”

A hundred potential applicants have gone public over those years with their ambitions to acquire new top level domains. These range from cities like .paris and .nyc, to brands like .canon and .hitachi, to verticals like .gay and .ski. Hundreds more have kept their plans secret, particularly due to the uncertainty that previously clouded the topic.

Why the need for these new TLDs? ICANN’s mission includes introducing more consumer choice — a blessing for everyone frustrated with finding that the ideal domain name for their new project is unavailable at the existing extensions.

For trademark owners, acquiring their own TLD creates a completely brand-safe online zone free from phishing, domain spoofing, knock-off sites, counterfeiting, and the gamut of other damaging activities that plague the Internet. Plus, a .brand TLD gives marketers the choice of any domain they want ending with their trademark. No matter what name you come up with for your new product or promotion, with your own .brand, the domain is available.


A More Equitable Internet


On a global scale, the need for new TLDs derives from the drive for an altogether greater good — a more equitable Internet. Regional communities such as the Galicians in Spain, the Venetians in Italy and the Kurds in Iraq have been active in asserting their need for domains that reflect their languages and cultures.

Moreover, recent developments will permit new TLDs to be in characters other than ASCII text (the letters and numbers on English-language keyboards). These new top level domains will usher in a true globalization of the Internet, with URL support in Chinese, Japanese, Cyrillic, Arabic, and dozens of other scripts.

Supporting the view that the public wants new top level domains are the recent successes of “repurposed country codes” like .co (officially the TLD for Colombia, but sold as an abbreviation for “company”) and .me (officially for Montenegro, sold for “unique personal brands”) as well as new SLDs (second level domains) like us.org in the United States and .com.de, about to be launched in Germany.


Opposition


There are of course opponents to new TLDs. Complaints about the cost (an $185,000 application fee plus the cost of producing a 200-odd page application, plus the set-up and running costs) have been responded to by ICANN with the announcement of a $2 million grant program designated for applicants from developing countries. But the main objections actually come from major brands that already spend hundreds of thousands of dollars registering domains “defensively” to prevent others from using them, and which are concerned that a proliferation of new domains will cause these costs to escalate vastly with no added benefits.

ICANN has sought to mitigate this risk by introducing far more stringent protections for trademark owners than those that exist under the current generic TLDs, including a system that allows the rapid takedown of domains that abuse trademarks.


The Process


The timetable announced for the introduction of the new top level domains starts immediately with the preparation of complex application documents. As running a TLD involves taking responsibility for core infrastructure of the Internet, specialist technical providers are required to support each new TLD, and the applications must include comprehensive and fully-funded business plans and detailed policy documents governing the rules for usage of the new domains. The application window is between January and April 2012, and the applications are scrutinized by ICANN and then made public, so that objections from any quarter may be heard before the domain is granted.

The earliest we are likely to see one of these new TLDs in our search engine results is early 2013.

For new TLDs that are contested — for instance where multiple applicants apply for the same or similar domains — assuming all applications are of equal merit, the domain will be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder. As premium dot com domains occasionally sell for millions of dollars, we can expect these bidding wars to reach tens of millions of dollars. Toys ‘R’ Us paid $5.1 million for the domain toys.com in 2009. What does that mean for the value of .toys?

 

By:Ben Crawford

12 Social Media Tools Recommended by the Pros

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 31st, 2011

Are you struggling to make social media work for your business? Sometimes a few well-chosen tools are all you need to get your social media marketing working for you.

In our recent Social Media Success Summit, there were presentations that covered all the key topics you need to make your social media marketing easy. In this article, I’ll share 12 of those tools that were recommended by the pros.

Tools to Refine Your Visibility and Engagement

Here are three tools recommended by Mari Smith during her first presentation on increasing your visibility and engagement on Facebook.

#1: Socialbakers

Get useful stats from SocialbakersSocialbakers offers paid services to monitor your Facebook statistics, but it also provides useful free statistics for Facebook and LinkedIn.

socialbakers

Check out the useful marketing data on Socialbakers.

#2: Kurrently

Find out what’s being shared on social media with Kurrentlya free, easy-to-use, real-time search engine for results from Twitter and Facebook. “Companies can capitalize on just-in-time marketing and social CRM opportunities like never before.”

kurrently

You can search through Facebook or Twitter or both.

#3: Blekko

Select the sites you want to search with Blekko. You can create “slashtags” for groups of URLs, friends, experts and communities and you can “slash in” what you want and “slash out” what you don’t want to search.

blekko

With Blekko, you have more control over your search results thanks to the slashtags you create.

Tools to Measure Specific Social Media Goals

Jay Baer gave a fantastic presentation on measuring social media. He clearly identified the different goals a company could have on social media and recommended tools to use to monitor results for each specific goal. Here are three of those tools.

#4: Social Mention

If social awareness is your main social media goal, then be sure to check outSocial Mentionwhich allows you to set up social media alerts so you can measure awareness for specific keywords.

socialmention

"Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information."

#5: Klout

Klout is another tool you can use to measure awareness on Twitter and Facebook.

klout

Check out the different graphs for your score results on Klout.

#6: PostRank Analytics

If customer loyalty is your main social media goal, you can use PostRank Analytics to measure results in improving loyalty.

postrank analytics

PostRank Analytics is a favorite tool of social media marketers.

Tools to Get the Job Done

Frank Eliason gave an overview of how to use social media in business and shared two of the tools he’s found useful.

#7: Blogsearch.Google

Use Blogsearch.Google.com for better search results than Google Alerts. There are many tools to monitor keywords. Don’t forget to use this one!

google blogs

Remember to check out what blogs are writing about you through Blogsearch.Google.com.

#8: Twitterfall

Use Twitterfall when you need to show executives how you can monitor what’s being said about your brand on Twitter.

twitterfall

Twitterfall specializes in real-time tweet searches.

A Useful Tool for Twitter Marketing

Hollis Thomases showed businesses how to use Twitter marketing to grow using this tool:

#9: Friend or Follow

Friend or Follow helps you improve your Twitter marketing. It tells you who’s not following you back on Twitter and who you’re not following back.

friend or follow

Use Friend or Follow to craft a stronger Twitter presence with your audience.

Tools to Make Video Blogging Easy

Steve Garfield always makes video blogging easy for everyone. Here are three tools to create on-the-fly videos to enhance your social media content.

#10: Wetoku

Sign up for Wetoku to make the popular side-by-side video interviews. All you need to do is sign in and send an invite code by email to the person you want to interview.

wetoku

Wetoku is an easy tool to use for interview videos.

#11: Socialcam

If you have an iPhone or an Android phone, be sure to check out Socialcam. Steve says this is the easiest way to share videos with your social networks.

socialcam

Socialcam combines video sharing with social communities.

#12: Stupeflix

Use Stupeflix to integrate after-effects and photos to your videos. If you want to do editing without using editing software, this tool is for you.

stupeflix

Stupeflix is an easy way to make your videos more appealing.

Find the Tools You Need

One of my takeaways from the summit was that you don’t need to use all of the tools available. Businesses have different cultures, different goals and are at different stages in integrating social media into their marketing mix. These social media pros found the tools that worked best for them.

Do you think any of the tools above can make your social media marketing easier to execute? Please let us know in the comments below if you’re going to try any of them.

 

By: Cindy King

Facebook Users Have More Close Friends (Study)

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 27th, 2011

A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals some interesting details about social networking users, debunking the myth that people who hang on Facebook a lot tend to have less real-life friends and contacts.

Someone who uses Facebook several times per day, the study found, has on average “9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.” Furthermore, Facebook users tend to get more emotional support, companionship as well as instrumental aid (meaning they’re more likely to get help when sick, etc). Finally, Facebook users tend to friend other users with whom they’ve actually met in real life; the average Facebook user has never met only 7% of his/hers Facebook friends.

Since the study was conducted during the November 2010 elections, it revealed that Facebook users also tend to be more politically active than other internet users. A Facebook user that interacts with the site multiple times per day was two and half times more likely to attend a political rally, 43% more likely to have said they would vote, and 57% more likely to persuade someone on their vote.

 

 

 

 

The study also shows that Facebook is, by far, the most engaging social platform out there, as 52% of Facebook users engage with the site daily. For comparison, 33% of Twitter users engage with the service every day, while only 7% of MySpace and 6% of LinkedIn users do the same.

 

 

 

 

The report is based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from October 20 to November 28, 2010 on a sample of 2,255 adults, age 18 and older.

More Facebook Brand Fans Say They’re Loyal Followers

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 20th, 2011

Social media friends and followers still say they’re more likely to buy

 

Early research on becoming a fan of brands on Facebook or a follower on Twitter indicated that social media users with brand connections were more loyal and more likely to say they would buy the brand’s products than average. Over the past year, those kinds of connections have become more common, and many brands have grown their fan pages and Twitter followings significantly.

Longitudinal data from ROI Research suggests that growth has not diluted the power of social media connections, which still have a link with customer loyalty.

In 2010, 32% of US social network users told the research firm they were at least somewhat more loyal to brands they were fans of on Facebook. This year, that percentage ticked up slightly, to 34%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Fans of on Facebook, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Similarly, 40% of respondents in 2010 said they were more loyal to brands they followed on Twitter, rising to 46% this year. There was also a significant drop in the number of users who disagreed with that claim, from 21% to 13%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Followers of on Twitter, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

At least half of Twitter and Facebook users said they had become more likely to talk about, recommend or purchase a company’s products after they began following the company on social media. And Twitter users showed a greater level of engagement than Facebook users across all these metrics, as well as in willingness to link to an ad for the product or attend a sponsored event.

Still, many users might want less communication from brands. More than 40% of social network users told ROI Research that brands should communicate with fans only once or twice a month, and another 26% thought weekly communication was sufficient. Only 10% of respondents wanted to hear from brands at least daily.

 

eMarketer

Flash Websites - Pros and Cons

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 13th, 2011

Flash is a very intriguing technology to add interactivity and flashy graphics to a website. Learning to write good animations and forms in Flash can be difficult and time-consuming, so developers who know Flash are motivated to use it in every situation. But as with all technology, Flash has some drawbacks for many readers and putting up a site in Flash can be a detriment to the site rather than a draw.

If you are planning on putting up a Flash website, you should know both the positive aspects of Flash as well as the drawbacks. This, combined with your knowledge of your customers, should help you to decide if creating a site in Flash or using Flash for certain elements of your site is a good idea.Using Flash can be risky too, as some customers are immediately put off by a Flash website and while search engines it can be very difficult to get an all-Flash website to rank high in search engines.

 

Reasons to Use Flash
  • Cross-platform compatibility
    Flash is well-supported on the Web browsers out there, and if you build a site or application in Flash, you know that it will be viewed correctly by anyone who has the Flash plugin. It is operating system and browser independent.
  • Animations
    Flash was originally used primarily as an animation tool, and that is what it is best suited for. It is easy to create animations in Flash, and then easy to view them.
  • Games
    Games can be fun, and Flash games don't have the browser support issues of Ajax the bandwidth limitations of server-side games written in CGI.
  • Vector graphics
    Vector graphics can look smoother and more attractive and Flash allows developers to create applications with smooth lines requiring that the customer have a vector-graphic tool installed on their hard drive.
  • Image replacement for special fonts
    Web designers who need a special font family in their Web designs can use an image replacementtechnique called sIFR (or Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) which replaces text in the design with Flash to get specific fonts.
  • Flash applications can perform script actions, collect data, and do most of the same things that server-side scripts can do.
Drawbacks to Using Flash
  • Bandwidth and Speed Limitations
    Unless the designer works very hard to optimize Flash most Flash applications and websites can be very large and slow to download. In many situations, the entire Flash site must be downloaded before it can be used. And while it is possible to add in graphical countdowns and other features to make the time pass more quickly, many people still won't wait.
  • Not Viewable on many Smart Phones
  • Usability is impaired
    One of the most important buttons on a Web browser is the back button. It is used all the time by most people browsing the Web. But a Flash site typically removes that functionality. When a customer hits the back button after delving deeply into a Flash site, s/he is taken back to the website they were on before they visited your site. Then if they return to your Flash site, they have to renavigate to where they were. Some people might be willing to do their work twice, but most won't.
  • Accessibility is also impaired
    Because most Flash sites are based on images, and don't generally have a lot of alternative text, they can be very difficult or impossible for a screen reader to read.
  • Search engines can't read them either
    Search engine spiders are a lot like screen readers, they can't parse images. Plus, many of them have trouble following links that are not standard HTML links - and most links in Flash are not in HTML - they are in Flash. Because of this, many Flash developers have a very difficult time getting their Flash sites to rank high in search engines. In fact, most Flash sites that do rank well, do so because they have two versions of the site - one Flash and one HTML. And then they have to maintain two copies of the same website.
  • Flash requires a plug-in
    While a large proportion of Web browsers have the plug-in pre-installed, the fact is that Flash does require a plug-in which some people and companies don't allow.
  • Some people just don't like Flash pages
    Similar to sound and animated graphics, Flash has developed a reputation among some customers as being more of an annoyance than a benefit to a Web page. This is especially true when the Flash serves no purpose other than to decorate a page - such as an animated banner or splash page. While these customers may be less common than those who don't care, they are often more vocal and more likely to sway opinion away from your site if you use Flash gratuitously.
Resolution

Should You Use Flash?

Only the designer and site owner can make that decision. Flash is a wonderful tool for adding games and animation to your Web site, and if those types of features are important, then you should use Flash.

Use Flash Where It's Effective

There are very few sites that benefit from using only Flash. The drawbacks to SEO, accessibility, and customer satisfaction make it impossible for me to recommend using Flash for your entire site. In fact, even Google recommends only using Flash in select situations if at all.

Never Use Flash for Navigation

It can be very tempting to create Flash navigation because you can add exciting transitions, rollovers, and vector graphics using Flash. But the navigation is the most important part of your Web page. If your customers can't use your navigation for any reason, they will simply leave - bandwidth and accessibility issues can both contribute to a Flash navigation structure being unusable. 

If your business needs help with with web design please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

 

Social Networking Accounts for 1 of Every 6 minutes spent online

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 8th, 2011

Social networking use has doubled since 2007, and it’s all thanks to Facebook, Twitter and an array of other social companies reaching record traffic highs.

comScore’s latest numbers are out, and they paint a familiar story: social networking is on the rise. It’s the rate of growth that’s surprising, though.

According to the web analytics firm, the average online user in the U.S. now spends nearly 16% of his or her time on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr or Twitter. That’s up from just 8% in July 2007. In the last year alone, social networking use has increased by approximately 25%.

The biggest reason for the increase in social networking is Facebook and its 700+ million users. In August 2005, Facebook was tiny compared to MySpace, its primary competitor. Facebook attracted less than 10 million monthly U.S. visitors, compared to MySpace’s 20+ million.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t until May 2009 when Facebook finally caught up with its competitor, and ever since then Facebook has been on the rise, while MySpace has experienced a dramatic fall from grace. In May 2011, Facebook garnered 157.2 million visitors, more than four times the size of Myspace (34.9 million visitors). Facebook now reaches 73% of the U.S. Internet population each month, while MySpace has lost nearly 50% of its audience in the last year alone.

It’s not just Facebook that’s doing well, though: LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter all hit record highs in May, 2011. LinkedIn now attracts 33.4 million U.S. visitors, more than Twitter’s 27 million and Tumblr’s 10.7 million. Tumblr is the fastest-growing of the three companies though, boasting 166% growth in the last year. LinkedIn’s U.S. audience rose by a strong 58% in the last twelve months.

The spotlight is shining bright on these companies, thanks to a string of successful IPOs. LinkedIn shares soared during its public offering, while Pandora upped its share price twice due to heightened demand. The light is brightest for Facebook though, which could be one of the largest IPOs in history. comScore’s data contradicts recent reports that Facebook’s growth is slowing down.

Are you surprised by comScore’s numbers? Do you think social network’s growth is sustainable? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

by: Ben Parr

 

9 Things You Need to Know About ICANN’s New Top Level Domains

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 6th, 2011

On Monday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), approved the creation of generic top-level domains(TLDs) for brands and organizations.

Historically, only 22 general use-approved TLDs, which include .com, .org, .net and a host of others, have existed across the web. A number of country code top-level domains (like .me and .ly) also exist and throughout the years, many individuals not from those countries have used those domains to give their domain or brand a more memorable (or in some cases, shorter) URL.

The promise of more generic TLDs is immense because it could conceivably open up new domain extensions and opportunities for a wider variety of brands, organizations and services.

 

SEE ALSO: How Big Is the Web & How Fast Is It Growing?

 

Still, the entire TLD process is complicated and difficult to understand. We’ve been sucked down the rabbit hole of ICANN and the gTLD application process in the past, and it isn’t something we recommend for the faint of heart.

We read (or at least skimmed) the 352-page draft New gTLD Applicant Guidebook [PDF] to get to the bottom of what the gTLD process is, how much it costs, and ultimately, why regular users should care.


1. How Many New TLDs Will Be Issued?


ICANN has said between 300 and 1,000 new gTLDs could be created per year under the new program.

Still, this number assumes ICANN can process and deal with that many applications in a timely matter. Thousands of applications could take years to evaluate and process.

ICANN says it is limiting the first batch to 500 applications and subsequent batches — or rounds — will be limited to 400 applications.


2. What Is the Application Period?


Applications will be accepted for new TLDs between January 12, 2012 and April 12, 2012. This will be for the first round — or batch. Subsequent application periods will become available in the future.


3. How Much Will Registration Cost?


The evaluation fee from prospective applicants is $185,000. According to the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, a $5,000 deposit is required “at the time the user requests an application slot within TAS, and a payment of the remaining $180,000 submitted with the full application.”

This is just to start the evaluation process. Additional fees may be required during the course of the application review process, and this fee doesn’t include additional infrastructure fees that a gTLD may generate.


4. How Long Will the Evaluation Process Take?


ICANN estimates that the evaluation process could be as short as nine months or as long as twenty months, depending on the application, intended usage and other issues.

ICANN expects the first new gTLDs to appear within the year, but it’s likely going to be 2013 before end users see the new domains in action.


5. What Happens if Two Entities Apply for the Same gTLD?


It depends on the timeline. If one of the users has already completed process before another party has applied, the TLD will be delegated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If neither applicant has completed the process, ICANN has a more detailed resolution process in place. The applicants will be given points in four different categories. The applicant that amasses the most points, based on this set of criteria, will win the domain. In the even of a tie in points, an auction will take place and the TLD will go to the highest bidder.

Additionally, community-based applications (that is, applications from an organization or entity and not a specific brand or company) will have the opportunity to have a priority evaluation in this process.

ICANN will notify applicants who are part of a contention set. Applicants can decide to try to reach their own resolution together (for instance, a compromise might be able to be reached for a more generic TLD like “soda” or “pizza”).


6. What About Trademarks?


This is going to be a very, very tricky situation for ICANN to mitigate. Although users do not need to own a Trademark to apply for a new TLD, the evaluation review will take any existing trademarks (from all over the world) into account when looking at the application.

Users cannot “reserve” a TLD of a trademarked name, they must go through the same process as everyone else. In addition to checking for trademarked names for a TLD, ICANN will also look at similar names that may be trademarked or might be confusing.

Additionally, trademark owners or other interested parties can file an objection during the evaluation process.


7. How Much Does Filing an Objection Cost?


The Applicant Guidebook is still just a draft, so we don’t have the final figures; but it will cost the thousands of dollars to file an objection — not including any additional mediation or court costs.

One of the reasons that ICANN is charging so much for its evaluation fees is that it is doing lots of due diligence to try to settle the feasibility of a TLD before granting it to an organization. Moreover, ICANN wants to prevent domain squatters from grabbing TLDs.


8. If I Get a New TLD, Do I Have to Let My Competitors Use It?


Once a new TLD is granted, the owner essentially becomes a registrar. That means that if he or she wants to let anyone willing to pay a registration fee get their own domain on that TLD, they can. Alternatively, the owner could limit the use of the domain to certain entities or prevent people without certain qualifications from gaining access to the TLD.


9. Will This Have Any Real Impact on My Life as a Web User or a Brand?


Not in the immediate future. However, it’s important to remember that it took years for the current TLD structure to become a viable and affordable strategy for individuals and non-Fortune 100 companies.

Twenty years ago, it wasn’t common for brands, small businesses or individuals to have their own domains. Today, a staggering number of registrars exist. It took a long time for the TLD market as we know it today to really start to open up.

I bought my first domain name in 1999, I think I paid $45 for registration that first year. Prior to 1998 or so, domain registration was a multi-hundred or multi-thousand dollar investment. I now pay $8 or $9 for a .com or .net domain, and that includes private registration.

It will take time for the process and oversight aspect of the new gTLD policies to be worked out and automated. However, we expect that community-driven TLDs for things like .music, .sports and .film become more available in the future.

Yes, actually owning a customized TLD, like .google or .apple or .facebook might be something that only large corporations or government entities can afford to do, but with time, we expect that even that process will start to change, just as they did in the .com and .net space.

by: Christina Warren

Why Gift Cards Will Lead the Transition From Plastic to Digital

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 1st, 2011

Over the past several years, gift cards have become the most popular kind of gift. They are the most widely-used addressable person-to-person payment method, totaling $91 billion in sales during the 2010 holiday shopping season. We love them because of their convenience. And we hate them because they don’t truly feel personal.

The mobile digital device will help to wipe away this awkward paradox. The days of plastic-based payment and gift cards are numbered. The ability to make a payment or send a gift from any device, anytime, anywhere, in any amount, dramatically shifts the convenience paradigm. And the gift card’s shift from plastic to digital may pave the way for other forms of digital payment.

Here, we’ll take a look at the three major factors driving this shift.


1. Embracing Digital Gifting


The first is the exponential growth of businesses that are embracing digital gifting. They are doing so to extend their revenue streams and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. RSR Research reported in late 2010 that half of the top 100 Internet retailers now offer digital gift cards. In January, Starbucks estimated that digital gift cards would represent as much as 20% of its gift card business in the near future.

But there are hundreds of others shifting away from plastic as well — from global brand names to smaller regional and local retailers. According to Urban Wallace Associates, more than 6 million U.S. shoppers bought digital gift cards within the past 6 months — a 150% increase since last measured three years ago.


2. Virtual Goods


The second key trend is increased purchasing and gifting of “virtual goods.” This market — already nearly $2 billion in the U.S., according to Inside Network Research — has millions of fans who love to buy and give gifts like virtual cakes, clothing, badges and FarmVille goods.

The next logical extension is for consumers to give digital gift cards that can actually be used to buy real stuff. Facebook already sells its credits as gift cards in retail stores. As the popularity of Zynga, Facebook and digital gift card currencies grow, they may well become major payment modes in both the virtual and physical worlds.


3. Personalization


The third major trend is personalization. The digital age not only enables it but stimulates it. Plastic is a form factor that knows nothing about you, nor can it easily express your personal gifting sentiments. Digital gifting is radically different. The Home Depot eGifting program, for example, enables consumers to upload not only photos but can now also capture live video on its digital gift cards.

Mobile apps are proliferating to support creative and new forms of retail promotion and value. Digital forms of stored value offer new experiences and opportunities never before possible with plastic. Three examples illustrate how versatile and pervasive the post-plastic era is becoming. These include:

  • Starbucks Foursquare checkin: To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks gave the first 600 customers to “check in” an instantly redeemable mobile gift card.
  • IntoNow: This social TV companion app partnered with Pepsi to give users instant digital gift cards for watching certain TV ads.
  • Chase GiftShelf: Chase’s iPhone app lets you redeem credit card points on the go for digital gift cards at Gap, Chili’s, Papa John’s, The Container Store and a dozen other retailers.

Conclusion


These developments provide only a glimpse of what is possible in the post-plastic card era. Digital gifting and payments are creating new possibilities of “instancy.” If you forgot to bring your nephew a present, you can order him a digital gift card for his birthday as you’re walking toward his house. Or you can send your niece one via Facebook and personalize it with a photo or short video telling her how proud you are of her.

It is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how fast.” Market interest is clearly there. Starbucks’ new mobile card, for example, has already generated more than 3 million transactions, proving that mobile payments using digitally stored value can work.

Skeptics remain, but they’re of the same mind as those who said people would never prefer credit cards over cash. People, however, love convenience and immediacy. In 1975, one of the major credit card companies made a name for itself with the tagline “Don’t leave home without it.” Today, you will never have to leave home without a means of paying digitally. Those in the market who support that transition will be the winners.

3 Important E-Commerce Principles for Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 31st, 2011

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

It’s no secret that the internet can enable small business to compete on an equal playing field with larger online competitors; however, due to budget differences between the two the approach might be a bit different.

The current economy has made some small business owners shy away from internet marketing thinking it “simply costs too much to operate online.” This misconception is one that has caused many ecommerce businesses to close their doors during the past year or so.

The fact is that operating an ecommerce business online can actually be more profitable than operating the same retail business offline — but you must make sure you adhere to a few fundamental principles to make it work.

  1. Create ICE (Investment, Credibility, Exposure): Invest in your website design ensuring it speaks to your customers in their language and with a professional image. Talk about the benefits your products have for them rather than about yourself. Site design and functionality is important as it helps build credibility. Gain exposure for your products using a combination of online marketing channels such as SEO, Paid Search (PPC), and Social Media (great viral effect). The combination of marketing channels ensures that if one channel’s effectiveness temporarily lags the rest can help pick up the slack.
  2. Don’t Quit: Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing or promotions — doing this is a sure way to lose market share and sales. It may be tempting especially during tough economic times such as these, but refrain from doing it. Some of the most successful companies online actually increase their marketing spend during economic downturns. A previous article I wrote titled Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips goes into that a bit more. If you think you do not have the funds to invest in marketing you need to consider enlisting the help of an expert who can ensure your marketing dollars provide you a proper rate of return and/or look carefully at your business model and product you are offering. Marketing should be an asset to a company not a liability. Proper marketing almost always drives sales.
  3. Instill Trust: I’ve asked this question before; “What is the one word that makes people buy?” The answer is trust. If you want to compete with the big guys then you need to ensure your approach always builds customer trust. Things like site design, use and appearance of security seals, and customer points of assurance go a long way toward building trust. If you can’t build trust you won’t build sales. It doesn’t matter whether a product or service is priced lower than the competition, if potential customers are uncertain about the quality of their purchase — or the companies behind them — they simply won’t buy.

Why Ecommerce Is So Important To Embrace?

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 25th, 2011

The Internet is an unlimited space for the growth of any ecommerce industry and many possibilities and opportunities are constantly becoming available for anyone to create their own online business. This new media is an open area for communication and the exchanging of experiences and wide range of opportunities across the globe. If you want to grow and expand your business, you will need to embrace this new opportunity and set up an interactive business in the cyber community.

Any Ecommerce website expansion is a significant obligation and commitment for any online trade. The main goal of any ecommerce trade is to expand business by an ever growing website presence. It is a platform that requires more and more traffic in order to succeed. The users and visitors are potential clients, need to be persuaded to come and surf and then buy your products or services, you have to identify and feel their wishes and requirements. This requires you to think like a buyer. We must appreciate that everyone will have their own shopping experience and method, however it is possible to create a general flow whereby you can direct a client, without him or her actually knowing they are being ed. Always remember that clients can be quite capricious, so try and think out of the box as well as catering for the ordinary client.

You should continue this list of questions and ask yourself what is needed, always remember you must start with a good plan. If all features and details are planned and included into your draft, then you will have far less and unexpected chances for failure.

The internet community now boasts millions of users all are potential purchasers, all of them have an internet connection and are surfing the net 24/7. Thus, think how wide your business can be or could be, don't think too rural. Think how much you could expand your business window from a simple website. Websites are designed popularize products and services around the world. If you try to embrace as many people as you can, you will gain more flow and potential sales profits, traffic and high numbers are a pre cursor to converting traffic into sales.

Also you must consider other competitors on the network who may have the same goals as you. Do you run away from this point? Do not think that competitors will only destroy your clientele and your faith in overall victory, this is absolutely wrong!Direct competition only makes you stronger and makes you to think day and night how to develop your business. You can and must use this power of competitive network. If you think laterally your network with have useful contacts and creating links you establish a good linkage and network. It will work for your website and boast your overall awareness far more than that of your competitors` websites. Improvise and develop your website from various points of view. If you need some  additional support and advice, then you are welcome to contact ecommerce web design Birmingham company. They will provide you with a range of services in all web building spheres, making sure that you will have a full control of your own website.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

8 Reasons Every Ecommerce Site Should Get Serious About Video

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 18th, 2011

The truth about doing business online today is that for many companies, increasing market share requires winning customers from competitors. Using online video to build business is one tactic that has been rapidly gaining popularity in the past few years. It delivers benefits that include personalization, competitive advantage and cost-effectiveness.

Below are seven ways video outperforms static web content in the ruthless competition for market share.


1. Video Attracts New, Relevant Search Traffic


No conversation about ebusiness is complete without discussing search engine optimization (SEO). An ebusiness cannot gain on a competitor until consumers know it exists and can easily find it through organic search. Today, ebusinesses that utilize video assets are at an advantage, since Google is structuring its search engine results to reward sites that include video. According to Forrester, any given video in an index of searchable keywords has a 50 times better chance of appearing on the first page of results than any given text page.

To better promote their video investments and derive the greatest SEO rewards, ebusinesses are making videos more accessible to visitors, scaling videos to reach long-tail keywords, and automating video production in order to have video available as soon as new products are introduced.


2. Video Assets Can be Easily Syndicated


Online video is usually channel agnostic. By syndicating video properties to multiple sites — includingYouTube, the second largest search engine today — ebusinesses extend their reach to innumerable eyeballs. In addition to traditional channels, online video plays equally well via mobile networks, TV, and in-store screens. It is a cost-effective way to maintain brand consistency and strengthen consumer awareness.


3. Videos Encourage Sharing


Videos are far more likely to be passed and shared than text-based pages. Additionally, a video thumbnail on a social media platform — Facebook, for example — grabs more attention than static text and often results in more comments, more “Likes,” and more traffic to the brand’s website. When you like or share a video link, a thumbnail appears on your wall and is also seen by your friends.

According to a study from YouBrand, pictures and video within Facebook get engaged with and clicked more often than just text and questions.


4. Video Engages Site Visitors


Video provides a familiar user interface for site visitors. When videos are properly produced, they captivate the user. Instead of the need to navigate, scroll and click to access information, the video is a one-stop shop for information. It takes less energy than the hassle of reading and the user is engaged until he or she is ready to follow an embedded call-to-action. Today’s automated video production platforms easily enable this flow, in many cases directing visual and auditory calls-to-action that guide the viewer to a shopping cart.


5. Video’s “Halo Effect” Drives Conversions


Video can give customers an in-depth view of a product or a demonstration that quells any hesitancy they might have about purchasing online. The peace of mind the customer gains from the video seeps into the way he or she feels about the brand and website overall, building trust and credibility. This is essential to gaining market share, especially for businesses that sell products with a lot of competition.


6. Video Increases Customer Loyalty


Video newsletters are more likely to attract consumer attention. By some estimates, the open rate for a video newsletter is two to three times higher than for a text-based newsletter. While many brands compete for consumer attention with the latter, those who employ the former stand out from the crowd. These video communications can be personalized for each recipient with individualized greetings, references to previously purchased items, or offers based on shopping history, geography and segmentation.


7. Video Creates Online Personalization


By improving and tailoring the customer experience, online retailers in every sector have increased customer loyalty, conversion rates and average order price. The quality of online personalization continues to rise and in many cases can rival or outperform the “live” shopping experience. This is a key factor in gaining market share, since consumers increasingly shop online but still express a desire for the personal touch and the social aspects of in-person browsing.

When prospects go to a store, they get recommendations and help from in-store staff who point them to relevant products. Video delivers this experience online, with far less variability and chance. With new technologies that offer personalized video created on-the-fly, ebusinesses can bridge the gap between live and virtual experiences.


8. Video Production Costs Are Falling, ROI Is Rising


Online video clearly has an impact on competitive advantage. But is it feasible for most ebusinesses? Thanks to today’s automated video production technology, the answer is “yes.”

Two decades ago, the market struggled to replace the labor-intensive process of website management. Today we hardly think about the steps required to update or add web content: Images and text are now template-based, database-driven and easy to manipulate.

Video production is experiencing a similar change. While many website owners once fought the limitations of manually produced videos — including slow production times and prohibitive costs — today’s solutions tend to be automated, cost effective and high quality. With relatively little human intervention, online video production can increase a business’s competitive advantage while creating a better shopping experience for the user.


Online Coupons Reach Nearly Half of Web Users

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 11th, 2011

88.2 million US adults will redeem an online coupon this year

A digital revolution in couponing coupled with the belt-tightening of the recession have combined to make coupons cool among more than just those clipping the Sunday circular. Digital coupon usage is now firmly a part of the online shopping experience of millions of US consumers.

eMarketer estimates nearly half of US adult internet users, or 88.2 million people, have redeemed an online coupon or code for use either online or offline in the past year. By 2013, 96.8 million adults will redeem an online coupon.

“Consumer brands are accustomed to promoting their products in stores and in newspaper inserts,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst and author of a forthcoming report on online couponing. “But as more shoppers make purchase decisions online before taking a shopping trip, brands are following them onto the internet.”

US Adult Online Coupon Users, 2009-2013 (millions and % of adult  internet users)

The growth rate for online coupon users is expected to gradually decline through 2013, as most online consumers predisposed to using digital coupons already do so.

Already, household usage of digital coupons has nearly doubled since 2005. Experian Simmons reported that 12% of households redeemed coupons from email or the web that year; it expects that figure to reach 22% in 2011.

Digital Coupon* Usage Among US Households, 2005 & 2011 (% of  total)

“Today’s online coupon users tend to be affluent, highly educated and over the age of 55,” said Grau. “This is valuable input for marketers shaping the different elements of a promotional campaign, such as what products to promote with coupons, where to place the offers and what marketing messages to use.”

 

Keep your business ahead of the digital curve. Learn more about becoming an eMarketer Total Access client today.

Why Your Business NEEDS A Facebook Fan Page

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 7th, 2011

Regardless of what your business engages in, either a service or product, it’s a great idea to have an established Facebook fan page.  It all starts with how YOU network through Facebook. Why is having a Facebook fan page important? I’d say at this point, you should really focus more on a Facebook fan page than a Twitter account. Facebook is the largest social network in the world! As the internet becomes more social and Facebook becomes the largest portal on the web, you want your business to have a presence.

I have seen just about every small to large business owners have a fan page online, from local pest control companies to very large online retailers pushing product and branding through Facebook fan pages. The trick, or strategy I should say is establishing a base to then let your fans do the work for you. I think and believe the main reason and objective for a Facebook fan page is to have much better engagement with consumers and in a way, become a more transparent company. In this day in age in media, social media plays a huge role. Companies nationwide and even world-wide are putting more and more resources into the web and the social web(Facebook Ads, etc.)

A Facebook page can create lots of credibility not only with your existing customers but with new customers who are really looking and thinking about why they should trust your company and if its safe to do an online transaction (if you’re an e-retailer.) Let’s not forget, YES, e-commerce grows year after year (except 2009 I believe it was stable) but as e-commerce grows, so does online fraud (identity theft online) and users are becoming more and more weary of this issue. It’s very important and something you have to work on daily to make each visitor feel it is safe to purchase from your website. These portals, such as Facebook and Twitter allow for this because they know once you “screw” them, if ever, they can go right to those portals and announce it to the world.

Once your Facebook page has taken off, it can literally be one of your top resources for traffic and sales. The key to your facebook page taking off is LETTING YOUR FANS AND FRIENDS DO THE WORK FOR YOU AND BEING ACTIVE ON A DAILY BASIS promoting sales, specials, news, and whatever you can do to engage the user and keep brand awareness on a daily basis.

For SEO reasons, your Facebook Fan Page can be a big factor in the SERPs as you can rank really well for your company name (besides your website) for reputation management reasons. Make sure you have a vanity URL to go along with your facebook fan page, i.e. facebook.com/companyname. This can play a big role if you’re trying to push a site out of ranking for any particular reason as this one page can rank really well with Facebooks authority with Google.

By: Pablo Palatnik

HOW TO: Start Marketing on Facebook

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 4th, 2011

It’s no secret: U.S. consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on Facebook. Consequently, marketers — lured by Facebook’s suite of highly targeted marketing products and the site’s smooth ability to spread information across networks of friends — are investing increasing amounts of capital in the platform.

Facebook‘s proposition is especially attractive to small business owners, and not just because it enables them to hone in on potential customers through highly targeted, paid advertisements. Facebook also allows them to grow their business in a way that is familiar to many of them — through word-of-mouth marketing.

“Ask [small business owners] how they get customers, and they’ll tell you that someone walks in, has a great experience, walks out and tells a couple of their friends,” says Emily White, senior director of local at Facebook. “Now, that word-of-mouth marketing model is happening online, and Facebook is enabling to happen that at scale. Now [small business owners] aren’t just reaching a few customers’ friends, but all of their friends, mimicking these long-term behaviors in a way that small businesses can actually control,” she explains.

With these ideas in mind, we’ve compiled this six-step guide for getting started on Facebook.


1. Set Up Your Facebook Page


 

 

 

 

Setting up a public Page for your small business is as simple as visiting facebook.com/pages/create.php, selecting a category that describes your business and filling out a few basic details, such as the name of your business and, if applicable, its address.

Facebook will then send you to a template of your Page, which you can spruce up with a profile photo, further details such as hours (see Info tab on left-hand sidebar). You can also identify additional Page administrations (see Info > Manage Admins), add more multimedia and events (Info > Apps) and adjust the settings to control how users can contribute to your Page (Info > Manage Permissions).

 

 

 

 

It’s also a good time to post your first status update welcoming fans to your Page. You can share your updates with everyone, or target by location or language — a great option if you run a business in multiple locations.

 

 

 

 


2. Invite Your Friends


 

 

 

 

After your Page is set up, you’ll want to invite your friends to “like” your Page. Once you’ve amassed 25 fans, you’ll be able to set up a vanity URL, e.g. facebook.com/mashable.

Go to the Username page, select the Page name from the dropdown menu and then write in the name you’d like to use. Keep in mind that you can’t change the URL for a Page once you confirm.


3. Customize Your Page


 

 

 

 

There a number of apps to help you customize your page beyond the standard layout, which can be found in the Applications Directory.

There, you’ll find apps that will let you create polls, add more content to your Info tab, offer coupons, showcase your YouTube videos and more.


4. Convert Your Existing Customers Into Likes


Once you’re feeling confident about the look of your Page, your next step, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow suggests, is to leverage all of your owned media assets — your mailing list, e-mail newsletter and signature, store window, website, business cards, etc. — to grow your fan base. Let them know you’re there, and provide an immediate incentive for them to connect, such as a discount or giveaway.

“This will increase your conversions significantly,” Lazerow says. “Since your Page is a ghost town at this point, you need to give people an incentive to connect at the onset. The best way to do that is to give them a ‘thank you.’”


5. Engage


 

 

 

 

As you build up your fan base, you’ll want to provide a stream of interesting content that will entertain and engage your fans.

Anna Strahs, the owner of a gluten-free bakery in Richmond, VA, attributes half of her business to Facebook. She says she keeps fans coming back for more by posting pictures of the items she’s baked that day.

“When we post pictures of specific items, we immediately get orders for those items,” she says — and it’s no wonder, because they look delicious. Strahs says she will also post little quizzes in exchange for free baked goods, which winners can pick up at one of two farmers market locations two days each week.

Her advice? Post often and make the posts count. She emphasizes that beautiful images with contextual captions go a long way. “The whole point is to get people to comment and interact with your Page so it shows up in others’ newsfeeds,” she explains.

It’s also important to keep content fresh, update in an authentic voice and to evolve your Facebook strategy over time.

Remember to keep track of analytics on your Insights page to see what kinds of posts performance best in terms of engagement. And seek feedback directly from your fans. Are you posting too little or too often? What kinds of things would they like to see?

 

 

 

 


6. Advertise


Once you’ve converted most of your existing customer base into Facebook fans, you’ll want to start reaching others through targeted Facebook ads, which is still the most effective method for increasing your number of “likes,” says Maureen Mullen, chief researcher at luxury think tank L2.

You can target users in your immediate area by gender, age, alma mater, employer, and even those who “like” your competition. You could also target users on their birthdays, offering them a free ice cream cone, for instance, if they stop by your store that day. You can also target existing fans with coupons and other incentives to encourage them to stop by your retail location or place an order.

Facebook also has a Sponsored Stories product that enables you to reach the friends of your current fans. In your advertisement, a user will see that one of their friends has endorsed your company, essentially enabling a fan to market on your behalf.

Static vs Dynamic Websites

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 27th, 2011

What is a static website? What is a dynamic website? 
What kind of website do I need?

A static website is one that seldom or never changes.  This means that once the site is designed and uploaded to a location on the Internet it is considered complete and not updated very often (other than annual or semi-annual maintenance). A viewer sees the exact same thing every time they go to the website.

While this may sound boring, static websites can be made more interesting through the use of slide shows, email forms, rollover buttons and programming such as Javascripts. Think of a static website as an online brochure.

A dynamic website's content is regenerated every time a user visits or reloads the site. The owner, viewer or automated programming can change the content constantly. This is done through the use of one or several databases located on the website hosting server.

Database driven websites are used for interactive websites such as online sales, blogs/message boards and sites that contain large amounts of information.  The data (or content) of a webpage is stored in the database and is retrieved when the viewer clicks on a specially programmed button or link.

An example of dynamic information is shown below. While this example is rather simple, dynamic sites can be very sophisticated and provide viewers with tremendous amounts of information with just a few mouse clicks.

There are many static websites on the Internet, you won’t be able to tell immediately if it is static, but the chances are, if the site looks basic and is for a smaller company, and simply delivers information without any bells and whistles, it could be a static website. Static websites can only really be updated by someone with a knowledge of website development. Static websites are the cheapest to develop and host, and many smaller companies still use these to get a web presence.

Advantages of static websites

  • Quick to develop
  • Cheap to develop
  • Cheap to host

Disadvantages of static websites

  • Requires web development expertise to update site
  • Site not as useful for the user
  • Content can get stagnant

Dynamic sites on the other hand can be more expensive to develop initially, but the advantages are numerous. At a basic level, a dynamic website can give the website owner the ability to simply update and add new content to the site. For example, news and events could be posted to the site through a simple browser interface. Dynamic features of a site are only limited by imagination. Some examples of dynamic website features could be: content management system, e-commerce system, bulletin / discussion boards, intranet or extranet facilities, ability for clients or users to upload documents, ability for administrators or users to create content or add information to a site (dynamic publishing).

Advantages of dynamic websites

  • Much more functional website
  • Much easier to update
  • New content brings people back to the site and helps in the search engines
  • Can work as a system to allow staff or users to collaborate

Disadvantages of dynamic websites

  • Slower / more expensive to develop
  • Hosting costs a little more

Summary

Many sites from the last decade are static, but more and more people are realising the advantages of having a dynamic website. Dynamic websites can make the most of your site and either use it as a tool or create a professional, interesting experience for your visitors.

This article aimed to tackle some of the questions faced by website owners. 

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Why E-Commerce is Important For Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 20th, 2011

For the sake of the economy and the individuals involved, huge numbers of new small businesses are forming in hopes of making a positive impact to the community. In order to make that positive impact, you need to make sure that your small business is up-to-date and following the latest trends. When it comes to small businesses, current trends refer directly to e-commerce. Here are four major reasons why implementing e-commerce should be one of the top priorities in building any small business.

Internet is so Mainstream these Days

Just about every household in the US has at least a computer, laptop, or mobile device that can access the Internet and people worldwide are getting into it as well. With the introduction to social networking sites and online shopping, the Internet became a part of their daily lives conveniently getting work done.

Most Modern Businesses are Doing It

As a result of all the popularity the Internet has cultivated, it is a no-brainer for existing small businesses to jump on the electronic bandwagon and start doing transactions online. Most modern businesses do it primarily for convenience and also for security.

You need to get into it as well, not only because they are doing it, but also to stay competitive with any other small businesses offering similar products and services. E-commerce competition involves the innovative use of website design and creative development to give customers and visitors a seamless experience. It also adds brand awareness exposing your site to people that most frequently go online.

Reduces Workload

Ever since computers were introduced, processing of data has become faster and more accurate than ever before. Now E-commerce helps connect businesses and consumers closer than ever before. A lot of the tedious tasks such as calling for transactions and utilising e-mail are reduced here because the e-commerce systems handle the processing for you. The only work that is required is actually getting the e-commerce site up. This process is only done once so there is a lot of relief after the e-commerce site is finished. After that, it is all about getting the right people to use the system which should be easy and maintaining it to ensure the entire business is functional.

Necessary Step in Making the Small Business Grow Further

Once you already have an e-commerce site, the only direction you can go from here is upward. You will find more transactions to be done because of the ease in getting things done online and that very success can motivate you or any webmaster to improve the e-commerce experience and fill in any weaknesses discovered. Small businesses can grow into larger businesses in the same way as e-commerce sites becoming much larger and more feature rich.

E-commerce sites are an absolute necessity for any small business no matter what is being dealt. After efforts in marketing the e-commerce site, profits are sure to be made and further development can be planned from there. As long as there is maintenance involved, the e-commerce site should help the small business in every possible way.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Convert Boring Old Websites to one's that are Exciting and New

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 13th, 2011

Just about every web user has experienced landing on a website that just looks old.  Normally a quick scroll to the bottom of the page confirms the site copyright is from 2007 or worse.  To today’s web surfer, this two to three year old site may as well be a hundred years old.

If you were having guests for dinner, would you serve them two year-old leftovers.  Obviously not.  Why then are so many websites serving up two year-old content?  Two of the biggest reasons are:  First, it used to be enough just to have a website and a static site was fine.  Second, adding content was difficult and could be expensive.

Content Management Systems to the Rescue
Because of the rapid increase in social media applications such as blogging and sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace, website visitors expect something more than three year old content.  They expect to see fresh relevant content, to be able to create content and form communities.

Six Ways to improve your Website

  1. Add a blog.  Blogs are one of the easiest ways to generate new, relevant content and establish the website owners expertise.  Furthermore, comments provide interactivity.
  2. Convert the current static design into a Content Management System (CMS).  Converting to a CMS will make adding new content as easy as writing an email.
  3. Web users today want to build communities and collaborate with other users.
  4. Add Twitter and Facebook feeds. Social media is here to stay and is a great business tool. As was the case with websites several years ago, customers are beginning to expect that your web presence extend beyond your website. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with your current and future customers.
  5. Add a shopping cart. If you sell products that could be ordered online, but don’t offer this service, expect to see reduced revenue. Add a shopping cart and allow your customers to buy your products at exactly when they want too.
  6. Add relevant content feeds from other sources. The web is now a huge content generating machine. So you don’t have to create all the content. Find reputable experts in your industry and feature their blog postings on your site.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

3 Reasons why Twitter is important for business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 6th, 2011

Twitter is used by millions of people each day who share, connect, promote and brand their business image. If you, like them are still not convinced, here are 3 reasons why Twitter is important for your business. 

Connect
Imagine having a captive audience waiting for your information every minute of the day. By positioning yourself as an industry expert, you can grow a small community of followers who will have a direct connection to you and who recognize your name and business brand! You can also barter, search for independent contractors or find employees. Twitter provides a great platform to connect with the right people to fit your business needs. 

In addition, this is great way for existing customers to provide feedback. 

By connecting with similar companies will enable the sharing of idea, best practices and opportunity to gain insight on improving your business. 

Market
Most small businesses have a very small marketing budget which results in continuously looking for low cost and innovative ways to leverage their products or services. Twitter is a free social network that can be a rewarding marketing tool for your business. A few examples: 

  • Your message will appear across the Twitter board over and over by your followers who will retweet your message to their followers. Can we say ‘viral?’
  • Stay abreast of industry trends to market effectively to potential customers.
  • Publish your Twitter handle on all email newsletters, direct mailings, on your Web site and all other marketing channels.
  • Promote your latest blog posts and newsletters

Still having doubts? Well, let’s say you manage an online specialty athletic shop. You can:

Sales
Increasing your sales and profit margins are imperative for success and a matter of survival. By using twitter to announce upcoming sales or events, you will drive potential customers to your website or physical location. For example, I assisted a client who owns a Mexican Restaurant, with setting up her Twitter and Face book Fan page. Every day, she posts daily lunch specials. Last year, she reported a 9% increase in sales from travelers who used social media to find a local restaurant. 

The point is, with little effort and signing up for Twitter’s free social network, you can drive prospects to you by sharing relevant information about your business. 

YouTube: Two Days’ Worth of Video Uploaded Every Minute

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 1st, 2011

More than 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The video-sharing site reports a 37% increase in video uploaded per minute in the past six months and a 100% increase from last year. This is likely due in no small part to increased upload timesand the recent expansion of YouTube’s live streaming platform.

YouTube also passed 3 billion views in one day — a 50% increase compared to last year — over this past weekend.

YouTube announced these stats in a blog post Wednesday celebrating its sixth birthday (apparently a belated birthday, as most people consider it to have been born in February). We’re interested to see what these stats look like on YouTube’s seventh birthday, with the addition of the site’s expanded movie rental service and more sophisticated partner programs.

When a business creates a new professional video they almost put themselves in a new type of bucket from the standpoint of their audience. Branding increase and credibility is often times instilled into your website visitors. Online video marketing is a young approach but reaps many benefits if approached correctly. Take the time to figure out exactly how to incorporate a little bit of video into your business model.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Seven Networking No-Nos

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 23rd, 2011

Large-scale networking events can help you bolster your Rolodex and make connections that can land you a wealth of new contacts, connections and clients.

Coming across as both professional and engaging to those new contacts, however, isn't as simple as it may seem.

"It takes about 200 times the information to undo a first impression than it takes to make one," says Devora Zack, author of "Networking for People Who Hate Networking," and president of Only Connect Consulting, a career consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Landing new clients or investors at an event requires more than just a pulled-together pitch and some original ideas.

It might seem like a lot of pressure, but remembering the things you shouldn't do may help make networking a bit easier. Here are seven of networking's biggest no-no's:

1. Don't arrive late

To make things easier on yourself, time your arrival so you can maximize the interactions you're most interested in having.

"Especially for people who typically shy away from networking, the inclination is to arrive on the later side," says Ms. Zack. "The opposite is a much better strategy. Being the first person there, it's calmer, laid back, and people haven't yet settled into groups. You won't feel like there's no one to talk to."

2. Don't just stand there

This is not the time to wait around for people to approach you. You need to work the room -- even if you're on the shy side. There are ways to step outside your comfort zone and avoid awkwardness.

Start off by asking questions, Ms. Zack suggests. And don't worry about impressing the person you're speaking with -- just act naturally.

"Many people think they're bad at networking," she says. The key is to work with, rather than fight against, your natural communication style. That way, "what were liabilities become your greatest strengths," she says.

3. Don't feel like you need to talk to everyone

As a budding business owner or executive, you might enter a networking event with a "more the merrier" mentality when it comes to making new connections. However, it might be advantageous to take a "less is more" stance instead.

"It's better to meet fewer people and create a deeper, lasting connection than simply talking to everyone in the room," Ms. Zack says.

Instead of going to a networking event and grabbing 40 business cards in two hours, speak with fewer people for a longer period of time. Give each person you talk to at least five minutes to get to know you -- and you them -- before you move on, she advises.

This way, you'll leave networking events energized by new, true connections rather than tuckered out from meeting too many people.

4. Don't come unprepared

Once a new contact tells you what they're specifically looking for in terms of products or services, you need to be ready to tell them how your specific experience lines up with their needs.

Your goal isn't to hard-sell them right then and there -- instead, it should be to get them interested in you and what you have to offer. To do that, you need to be prepared with an understanding of what everyone from an investor to a potential client will need, and be armed with the most relevant, useful information to show that you have a solution that works for them.

What's "useful," you ask? Results. "Don't stand there and tell them what you do, tell them what results you get," says business coach Craig Jennings in New York. "Have examples of a situation, a problem and a solution that you can say in two breaths." Also, keep in mind that what an investor might find useful is likely different than what a customer wants to hear -- so having a mental catalog of a wealth of your previous experiences will help you fill all kinds of niches.

5. Don't forget the big picture

The bottom line is that, once you leave a networking event, you want the contacts and connections you've made to follow up with you and your services in the future.

"You should know your production and delivery capabilities, and be able to set a realistic expectation for potential customers," says Frank Dadah, general manager of financial contracts with Winter Wyman, a Boston staffing firm. You're trying to maintain the image of your company, and if you're not prepared to answer detailed questions that cover the ins and outs of what you have to offer, or if you can't offer it to them in a timely manner, they'll move on -- fast -- to someone who can.

6. Don't try to multitask

Within the first few minutes of meeting someone new, you probably don't whip out a notebook to write down what they're saying -- and that should be a rule for networking events, as well. Instead of being distracted by a pen and paper, focus intently on the conversation you're having. After you've grabbed a business card and stepped away, jot down a few things that will help you jog your memory when you follow up with them later.

7. Don't forget to follow up

"If you're not following up, you're not networking," says Ms. Zack. "You should stay in touch, without thinking about what you'll get out of the relationship."

Within 48 hours of your first meeting, you should email a note that pinpoints the most important parts of your earlier conversation, so your contact remembers who you are specifically. A timely turnaround will show that you're both interested and available to continue the conversation.

"Send them a link to a project you discussed, or ask them how the game they were going to that night ended up," advises Ms. Zack. "Give them something that is useful to them."

By:Kelly Eggers

Don't Overlook Customer Service Basics

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 16th, 2011

The liberal return policies and fast shipping that define Internet marketplaces have made customer service offered by many retailers better than ever, whether they operate brick-and-mortar storefronts or online sites, says Micah Solomon, co-author of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit. The problem, he argues, is that most individuals don't feel better about the service they receive—because of rising expectations, and because many smaller businesses don't do a good job keeping up with their larger counterparts. Solomon's tips for small business owners seeking to improve customer service:

1. Emphasize hellos and goodbyes. Ever wonder why hotels and resorts pay so much attention to the customer entrance experience? Solomon says it's because psychological studies show that people retain the strongest impressions of first and last encounters. "The ones in the middle are kind of a blur," he says.

Pay attention to where your first interaction with customers actually starts: It may be in your parking lot, on your website, or outside your front door. Wherever it is, make sure you "shine the doorknobs," Solomon says. "There's a superstore near me where people have to walk past all this trash and garbage to get inside. It looks like the store owners never stepped outside their front doors."

Avoid similar circumstances by being your own customer for a day. Park where your customers park, walk past what they see coming into your store. Search for your website and review all the links that turn up. "If Google Maps has your hours or phone number wrong, people will be mad at you before they ever get to your place," Solomon says. Make sure every page of your website includes a welcome message that orients customers to your home page and contact information.

2. Train greeters. Have a friendly employee stationed near your door who has a great smile and is not overly aggressive. "You want someone who can figure out what the customer needs but doesn't give off the feeling they're checking for shoplifters," Solomon says. "I was in a music store recently where I felt like a criminal. I made a $10 purchase and then on the way out they demanded to see my receipt. If your greeter is doing double-duty, at least have them be subtle about it."

3. Speed order fulfillment. The length of time customers expect to wait for orders has changed dramatically. "It's not even that you and I expect it faster than our parents did; we expect it faster than we did last year," Solomon says.

If you're a small retailer, think hard about the inventory you stock and what's available through your website. "Customers will not special order from your store anymore. They'll go online and buy it at your competitor, unless it's something very, very special they can't find elsewhere," Solomon says.

4. Hire selectively. It's nearly impossible to teach employees to have a genuine smile or a natural affinity for people. That's why you must hire optimistic, warm, and conscientious people, Solomon says. This is particularly true for those who will interact with customers in person, on the telephone, or online.

Once you have the right people on staff, give them the autonomy to make things right for your customers, no matter what the circumstances.

5. Get the language right. Even a nice person can unwittingly use words that make customers uncomfortable or insult them. "An employee may want to tell a customer, 'You owe $100.' But it's better to say, 'Our records seem to show you have a $100 balance,'" says Solomon. "That gives everyone a chance to save face,."

Don't be afraid to write some simple scripts for your employees—and make sure you model the language you want them to use. For instance, "May I take your plate?" is better wording for a waiter than "Are you still working on that?" A clerk should say, "You're welcome" or "my pleasure" rather than, "no problem," Solomon explains.

6. Develop a system to make each customer feel that employees care. An area where small businesses can shine is in relationships. Encourage employees to get to know regular customers and greet them personally, if possible. "The problem is," he says, "when a company gets even a couple branches bigger, [it loses] that personal touch."

Employ technology to assist you and your employees in remembering details about your customers, their preferences, and their typical purchases. "When a customer gets that feeling that he is remembered when he comes back, that's the best," says Solomon.

 

By: Karen Klein

5 Fatal Mistakes That Hold Back Start-up Business Owners

by Ventura County Now

May 9th, 2011

The definition of a sale is when preparation and opportunity meet on the same day. In business, it helps to understand that customers are working to minimize risk when they enter into contracts with small businesses.  Some small business owners often loose opportunities because of bad habits and not recognizing that certain things must be in place before they start marketing their products and services.  These issues speak directly to trust and credibility for a business owner.

Here are the top five mistakes that hold back start-up entrepreneurs:

1) Not Appreciating Social Intelligence

This is the mistake that small business owners make the most.  Having proper social skills and being in tune with your surroundings will take you a long way in business.

Here are some examples of poor social intelligence:

  • Do you have a tendency to talk too much at networking events, or worse, share too much personal information? No one except the banquet manager cares about how hard it was to find a parking space. Keep your networking chat smart.
  • Are you dressed like someone that has an executive presence? Or, like you should be serving the meal at the event. Everyone should have signature colors and at least three killer outfits. Men, the tie color and the shoes are very important.
  • Do you have a strong elevator pitch or do people need to ask you questions to help you define what you do? Great elevator pitches hit on three key things: explain the type of business, explain the target customer and close with a question.
  • Do you appropriately follow-up new leads and contacts or are you a stalker?  Be smart with follow-up. You can send an email, personal note and make a phone call within three months of meeting a contact unless instructed otherwise. Calling every week will not bring opportunity to your business.

2) Have a Professional Business Website

It’s surprising to me how many business owners still do not have a website.  I can’t remember the last time I used a paper directory or phone book to find a vendor. Many people will perform an internet search before they ever call you, so if your customers can’t find you online, you are missing out on opportunities. Nowadays, pulling together a business website is much easier.  Have an idea of what you want, and if you plan on incorporating a blog I strongly suggest you start writing blog posts at least three months prior to the launch of your website, so that you do not get backed-up trying to develop content once your business starts rolling.

 

3) Make Sure Your Email Address is Branded With Your Company Name and That the Email Address Works

I love my gmail account too, but that’s not the one I use for customer contact. Your emails should come from a branded account that promotes your business.

4) Not Investing in Your Brand

Yes, all of you out there using business cards that you can get for free online are really hurting your business brand.  Invest in a professional logo and a two color business card. Do not hand out business cards that have it printed on the back that they were free.  That tells a prospective customer that you are not serious about your business.

5) Have a Real Phone Number for Your Business

Your small business should have a dedicated phone line with voicemail.  Do not use your cell phone as your main business line.  You’ll never to do business with a major corporation with that as your brand image.  Also, please do not use those answering machines that come with the phone. No matter what you do, the message will never sound professional.

 

By Melinda Emerson