Latest Entries

Shopping Local – An Idea Not Limited to Buying Gifts

Every year around the holidays, you probably notice a big push on shopping local. While this is usually geared towards people shopping for gifts, keep in mind there are many ways to “shop local” throughout the year. For example, if you are going to shop local, shouldn’t you also host and advertise local?

There are a ton of studies out there showing the benefits to a community when residents spend their money close to home (see this story from Fast Company). Because of the gift buying around the holidays, this is always a great time to remind people that there are great stores offering the items they are looking for without having to drive to Columbus.

But how else can you shop local? Well let me give you a couple ideas using Neighborhood Image and Marion Online as two examples. Yes, this is a bit of shameless self promotion, but I promise to also give you some other shop local ideas.

Neighborhood Image is a locally owned and operated company. We pay local taxes, volunteer in the community, serve on non-profit boards, and give back to our area every day.

Neighborhood Image offers two main services – rock-solid website hosting and custom website design. Rather than pay a national company (like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, or Intuit), headquartered in some far off place, to host or design your website, why not choose an established company close to home? These national companies do not provide anything back to Marion and, in fact, they may be like Google who was recently accused of legally avoiding $2 billion in taxes.

Is Neighborhood Image as cheap as these national companies? Well, sometimes we are and sometimes we are not. But again, with us you receive the service of a local company while helping us support the local community. And do you really want to trust your organizations public image to the cheapest option? You can rest assured that we use the same systems as the big national brands in order to protect and maintain your website.

Marion Online (which is owned by Neighborhood Image) is no different. Rather than spend all of your advertising dollars with national companies, you can get great returns on your advertising and support Marion’s largest, locally owned, news service. You can be assured that you’re not only benefiting from our impactful, local advertising, but also that your money is being re-invested in your community.

Of course, there are many other ways to shop local throughout the year. You can use local attorneys, accountants, computer techs, tailors, and photographers just to mention a few. There are even local options for recording studios and video production.

If you’d like to learn more about hosting your website, or a new design, contact us by clicking here. For advertising on Marion Online, visit www.mariononline.com/contact and send us a message.

Dangers of Letting Domain Names Expire

Today I had a former client learn a potentially harsh lesson – letting a domain name expire can come back to bite you. This could mean viruses, pornography, scams, and more all under the disguise of your name. Hopefully you can learn something from their experience of letting a domain name expire.

I won’t name the former client, but they are a church in the area, and they decided last year to end their website. The church board decided they just didn’t need the site and wanted to see it go away.

I thought, and still think, this was kind of crazy since the cost of keeping a site online is really small. But, it’s their website and they were determined to let it go away.

I removed their site, put up a holding page, and allowed their domain name to expire a couple months later. And I never thought about it again. That is, until I received a phone call today.

The church member who had helped to maintain the site called and said the church board was hoping that I could take down the site. Obviously confused, I looked into it and discovered that while I had taken down the site, it had been taken by some unnamed entity.

That’s right – someone bought their expired domain name, scooped up their old site, and put it back online.

I’ve never seen this happen to a client before. I’ve often seen expired domains bought up, but I’ve never seen the site copied and put back online.

Why People Do This

Apparently, since I don’t regularly look for ways to scam people and search engines, I’m behind because this has been going on for some time.

The idea is to snatch up expired domains that rank high on Google. The new owner then searches for cached copies of the site, which are available in lots of places, and puts back up the site. The hope is to capture the clout of these highly ranked sites and then add in their own content. Some of this new content can be malicious, but it often used to make the new owner money.

Experts seem to disagree on if this even works to maintain the page rank, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Other Dangers

The main reason we tell people to not allow domains to expire is because of potential embarrassment or worse. If your company or organization is still operating, and you let your domain expire, you could suddenly find your name associated with a scam site or maybe even pornography.

What To Do

So rather than let domains expire, keep renewing them. They are  not that expense on a year-to-year basis (as of this date, domains are $15/year through us). If you want to use a new domain, you can have your old domain forward to the new site. You protect the name and take advantage of the old traffic.

As always, if you have questions, give us a call or send us an email. And feel free to comment below!

Misconceptions of Facebook Marketing

There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to marketing on Facebook. Unfortunately, several of these were spread further in an article that appeared in the Marion Star. While the people quoted in the story meant well and felt they were passing on helpful information, much of what was provided is just wrong and I feel obligated to offer some insight. By not pointing out the misconceptions, I feel like I might as well be endorsing them.

You can view the article, posted on Monday, October 17, by clicking here. (I can’t guarantee how long this link will be active, but we didn’t want to just steal it and post it on our site.)

I want to preface by saying that I have no way of knowing if these quotes were taken out of context or if they are true to what the individual was trying to say. I am only basing my comments on what was printed for everyone to see.

The Article

Wayne Rowe, director of communications at The Ohio State University at Marion, said “Any time someone makes an update on any of the sites I monitor, I see it.”

This is not always true. Facebook continues to use algorithms that choose what updates it thinks you want to see. You do not see every post that is submitted by those you follow. This algorithm continues to change and businesses have a harder and harder time breaking through the noise while Facebook tries to push them towards paid advertising.

Rowe also says, “On a regular website, I can’t send an invite to someone and it automatically go to their email, phone, Facebook page, etc.”

This is not true either. Part of your business marketing should including building an email database. This is used to update potential customers on what your business has to offer. The best part…this list belongs to you, not Facebook who take can it away on a whim.

Alex Sheridan was quoted by the story as saying Facebook is nice to use because everyone is on it.

No…everyone is not on it. In the U.S., those using Facebook equal about 50.2% of the population. Not only that, but in June it was reported that Facebook had lost 6 million U.S. users. Which means those using Facebook as their only marketing just lost 6 million potential customers.

“I basically have chosen to utilize Facebook over a website for one main reason – it is easier to maintain and update regularly,” said Rob Stumpo, owner of Stumpo’s Italian Kitchen.

This may be true with his website, but with a properly designed and developed site, this should not be a reality. Your website should, and can, be easy to update and use.

“We have a normal website, but I am forwarding that traffic to our Facebook page.”

This is the exact opposite way you should be using Facebook. You should be driving people to your website to capture valuable information that you own rather than giving it away to Facebook. You don’t have to believe me, just search Google and see how many articles there are on this subject.

According to Stumpo, the Facebook page will show up before other sites on a Google search as well. “Another positive is when you search something, Facebook pops up before the actual website. I’m going to try to embrace it. We get a lot of feedback from it.”

We tested this against a dozen sites, including our own, and rarely did the Facebook page come up first on Google. And it should never come up first if your website is updated and developed properly.

He is correct though, Facebook is a great way to gather feedback.

“Say one thing changes, like I take something off my menu. It will take me two hours to do the HTML and change it. If I go on Facebook, it takes 30 seconds to change it. The maintenance itself is so much easier than a website would be,” Stumpo said.

Again, your website should be and can be as simple to update as Facebook. If it’s not, then someone is doing it wrong.

Some Things Were Correct
There were several parts of the article that were right on.

Jeffrey Mull, a local acoustic pop musician, talked about using Facebook to drive traffic to his videos on Youtube. Now I would say he should be posting his Youtube videos on his own website, which is easy to do, and drive traffic there. But he understands that Facebook is a marketing tool, giving “him the opportunity to introduce people to his music who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to experience it.”

The article also talks about the Marion County Sheriff’s Office using Facebook to announce road closures, high water areas, severe weather alerts and snow emergency levels. They do this, but they also drive traffic back to their website instead of simply making updates. You can also bet your butt that they don’t rely on Facebook for all of their crime prevention. It’s only one tool.

Wrap Up
I know I may be coming across as anti-Facebook, but that is certainly not the case. I just worry about businesses that put all of their marketing eggs in one basket. Facebook is an amazing tool, but you have to make sure you are using it correctly. Since you don’t own Facebook, it can be taken from you without notice. If that were to happen to you, where would your marketing be?

You may also think we have a biased view because we build websites for small businesses. The truth is that we also spend a lot of time teaching people how to use social media, including Facebook.

With your own website, you own it and no one can take that from you.

Candice just happened to give a talk at the Marion Women’s Business Council on Monday, the same day this article came out. Her talk was on why your website is important even in this social media world. Click here to read what she had to say.

As always, we welcome your feedback and I’m always open to criticism. Just leave a comment!

Websites – Still Important in a Social Media World

Candice gave the following talk at the Women’s Business Council in Marion today. Ok, so she went off script a bit as all great speakers do, but this is the write-up. As always, we’d love to get your feedback, just leave a comment.

Today it’s more important than ever that businesses and organizations have a web presence. Having a website allows your business to be open 24/7 without you actually being there. It allows you to showcase your business to a wider audience, advertise on a limited budget, and so much more. Customers are no longer opening up a phone book to look for a business – they’re using the internet to not only find a name and phone number, but also learn about the exact services and pricing a business offers.

Many businesses, particularly small businesses, find it difficult to find the time and money to put into their online marketing, or they simply just don’t see the value in a website. More and more businesses are turning to social media as their primary web presence and forgoing a simple, basic domain name and website. And while it may seem like a good short-term solution as far as cost and time, it can really be a hindrance to your business.

Let’s talk about ownership first. Imagine there’s a fire that completely wiped out your business. Everything is gone – the building, the equipment, the product – everything. You have nothing left and you’re stuck starting from scratch all over again. Now imagine that in terms of your online presence. Imagine you’ve spent hours perfecting your marketing campaign, tweaking your website, uploading photos, etc and then the free service you’re using just goes up in flames. They shut down their servers without notice and no chance to back up or retrieve all that work you’ve done. How would that affect your business?

This can and does happen. Just last year Blogetery.com, which hosted over 73,000 personal online blogs, was shut down without warning by the US Government because a handful of users had posted terrorist-related information.Because of the government’s involvement, the hosting company providing the server space refused to even let innocent users access to back up and save their files.

Ownership is incredibly valuable to a business. Ownership of your business’ domain name and website ensures that your online web presence is exactly what you want it to be. It also ensures that it stays there for as long as you foot the bill.

Control- All of us see the complaints on Facebook whenever they change anything. What if your business relies on Facebook as your sole online presence? What if suddenly Facebook decided to severely limit the ways businesses use their pages and interact with customers, or do away with them altogether?

As a user of a free service your scope of control is incredibly limited by the provider. You’re limited on what you can and can’t do, how you can and can’t interact with customers, etc. Having your own website means having complete and total control. It can look and feel the way you want it to. You can interact with customers how you want to. You can have a website that is flashy and really catches the customers attention. As far as websites go, you’re only limited by your imagination (and budget, of course).  You know your customer base better than Facebook does, and you shouldn’t be letting Facebook tell you how you can and can’t market to your customers.

Limited Audience - A website is a universal marketing piece. Anyone can see it anywhere in the world. Facebook and other social media, however, limit your audience. While it may seem like everyone is on Facebook, the truth is that only a little over 50 percent of the U.S. population has a Facebook account. Worse, Facebook’s own statistics only state that 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day. So take your amount of fans and divide that number in half. On any given day that you make a status update to your business page, an average of only half of your fans will see it. And that’s if Facebook even deems it “important enough” to show up in your feed.

Social media isn’t limited to Facebook – there’s also Twitter, Google+, Yelp, FourSquare, etc. Users that aren’t on one may very well be on another. Also, look for niche marketing opportunities – those ‘underground communities’ that are specifically geared towards your business. Ravelry, for example, is an online community geared towards people like myself who knit, crochet, weave, etc. It’s a huge community of people interested in fiber arts, and it’s a great place to advertise if you’re in that field because it’s exactly your target audience.

Insights - One of the most important things in online marketing is to know where you stand in terms of visits, page referrers, search engine key words, etc. Google offers a free tool called Analytics. In a nutshell, it’s a system that tracks how many people visit, how they got to your website, what key words they searched for to get there, what city/state/country they’re in, and so much more. Everything you want and need to know about your customers is right at your fingertips in an easy-to-understand format. Free services for websites and social media don’t offer you the ability to take advantage of this. Facebook does offer page administrators access to some of this information, however it can’t tell you what search terms were used to find your page, or what specific city in Ohio your visitors are from.

Ultimately, social media is a marketing tool and should be used as such. Use your website to make the sales, and use your social media to direct people back to your website. When you add a new product to your online store, or a new blog post, or a new coupon, link it up on Facebook!

What the Heck is a QR Code?

This past week Marion Online asked in their poll question if people had ever used a QR code. While 14 percent said they had, about 80 percent selected “What the heck is a QR code.” If you are one of those people, never fear, the answer is actually very simple.

QR codes stands for Quick Response code and they are a type of barcode. One is pictured above. They first became popular in Japan as they were designed there to be used to track inventory in the automotive industry.

More recently, QR codes have become a popular marketing tool. You’ve probably seen the little squared on mail, signs, and in stores. Heck, I even saw one on a billboard the other day. (By the way, I think this is a horrible idea. Do not try to scan a QR code while driving. It’s just dumb.)

To use a QR code, you need to scan it, usually using a smart phone. There are probably hundreds of scanners available for Android and Iphone users, just search the markets. When you scan a code, several things may happen, but the most common use is to send you to a website or video. QR codes are used to get you to a website or give you a special offer without having to type in a long website address.

So the next time you see one of these odd looking squares, use your phone, or borrow someone else’s, and check it out for yourself.

Questions? Give us a call, send an email, or leave a comment!

Friday Favorites – September 16, 2011

Below are some of our favorite stories that we’ve run across the past week. Stories include lessons for digital age parenting, advice entrepreneurs should ignore, why websites still matter, and more.

5 Lessons for Parenting in the Digital Age
There are so many more reasons to stay inside these days. This article has tips on balancing the digital world when it comes to your kids.

Three Bits Of Advice Entrepreneurs Should Ignore
These three bits are well known. This author provides thoughtful reasons why you should plug your ears.

Five Reasons Why Websites Still Matter
(plug, plug) Social media is a powerful tool, but as we consistently tell people, it is just one tool. Here are some reasons (from someone other than us) why you still need a website.

Master Word and Excel with Handy Step-by-Step Videos
These are two old-school, but extremely useful programs. The videos listed give you easy to follow tutorials to get more out of them.

Are Facebook Posts Penalized by Using Third-Party Tools?
Ugh…we use and promote third-party tools to make keeping up with social media easier. These findings may make us re-think our strategy.

“Trash Tycoon” Brings Eco-Responsibility to Social Gaming
We’re eco-nerds around here. This game is right up our ally.

Search Engines Decide What’s Important To You

You head to your favorite search engine, YouTube, or even Facebook to look for something or to read the latest information. Maybe you’re looking for something serious, maybe just for fun. More than likely you are confident in the results that you get when you do your search or read your newsfeed, but did you know that what you see is not always what you want to see? It’s really what the search engine believes you want to see.

Eli Pariser, a successful online organizer and pioneer, reminds us that search engines are filtering what we see online. He calls it the filter bubble and suggests this may cause us to become even more narrowed in our views.

While Eli is worried about our level of broad-based knowledge (frankly so am I), you should also be worried about being passed over when someone is searching for businesses and products. Search engines may very well be passing your website over for your competitors because of a variety of factors.

This is just one more thing to keep in mind when companies come calling promising you high search engine rankings. That promise is hard, if not impossible, to keep and it keeps getting harder.

Check out the video. It’s only nine minutes long and very thought provoking.

Friday Favorites – September 2, 2011

Below are some of our favorite stories that we’ve run across the past week. Info includes Facebook for restaurants, emailing newsletters, cyber-loafing, and more. As always, we’d love to get your feedback and questions.

Start Using Your Website Email Address

Today is a quick tip – use your domain for your email address. Most of us have email accounts with free services like Yahoo or Gmail. But if you are using susieq@yahoo.com instead of susieq@thisiswhatido.com, you are missing out on opportunities to get people to your website.

I don’t know about you, but I’m nosy and when I see an email with a domain name that I don’t know, I tend to go check it out. And there just seems to be something unprofessional about a business card that says @yahoo.com. You have the domain name and the website, why not show it off.

Most website hosts provide email accounts for your domain. If yours does not, then it’s time to look for a new provider (hint, hint).

I understand that you like having your email all in one place. I do too. There are two easy fixes. The quickest is to have your domain email simply forward to your free service email. The best fix though is to use your free service email to check and send your domain email. That way you can receive your email and then send out replies using your domain.

Click here to find out how to do this in Gmail. For Yahoo users, click here. Hotmail users click here. If you use another service, simply search their help section for “check other email accounts” or something like that.

Questions? Let us know!

Get, or Correct, Your Google Places Page

One of the most important things you can do to improve your search ranking on Google is also one of the easiest to set up. Simply register, or update, your Google Places listing. Let us show you how.

You’ll see Google Places in action if you search for a business in Google. You can also see these when you look at Google Maps. Ever notice that you see businesses on the map? Ever wonder how they got there? This is how.

First, your business may already be listed with Google Places. To find out, go to Google Maps and search for your company (Neighborhood Image, Marion, Ohio) and see if you show up. If you do, it’s time to make sure all the information is correct and add more details.

Click on the company name and you’ll be taken to your Google Places page (an example is shown above). Below you can see an example of our page. It has your name, address, phone number, website address, as well as a description and keywords. Or at least it should.

If the information is wrong or incomplete, and to claim ownership of your page, click on the “Edit this place” at the top right-hand corner. Note – you may have to sign into your Google account to do this. Fill out the details and click “Publish.”

You’ll also want to claim ownership of the page. To do this, click the “Business owner?” link in the top right-hand corner of the page. Follow the directions. You will have to verify your information to complete the process.

Like I said, couldn’t be easier.

Now, you can, and should, go further by uploading some photos or your business or work. You can also encourage people to leave reviews of your business. Of course we say you should do this, but as you can see in the photo, we have not done this. I guess I need to get to work.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or need any help!



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