Put Your Business on the Map (Literally)

on-the-mapFor just about any business, it’s absolutely crucial that your customers be able to find you. For small, local businesses that rely on traffic to a storefront, it’s even more critical. And, in this digital age, having your business online can be a major factor in potential customers finding your front door.

That’s why I was surprised to recently learn that, according to Google, only 37% of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine. That’s a whopping 63% of local businesses that have no control over how their information appears when Joe and Jane Public go searching on the web, Google Maps, or mobile devices.

If you’re having a panic attack, I’ll wait here while you open a new tab and Google your business.

..

.

Back? Good.

Now, if you’ve already claimed your business listing, awesome! High fives for you!

If your search was less than effective, well, that’s fine, too. You’re not alone, and it’s a quick fix. You don’t even need to have a website!

Google makes it incredible easy to claim your business’s turf. And, with about 85% of all search engine traffic coming through the Big G, it makes a whole lot of sense to make sure your business is online.

Now, there are three key reasons why you should claim your business listing on Google:

  1. Control Your Listing
  2. Fast, Free & Easy
  3. Another Marketing Tool

Let’s take a deeper look at these point.

If You Post It, They Will Come

Consider this: 4 in 5 consumers will use a search engine to get the store address, hours, and directions for a local business.

By getting your business set up on Google, you make it much easier for your potential customers to find you when they hop on Google Search and Maps. Not only can you ensure your business information is accurate, but you can also connect with them right from the get-go.

Simply put, more customers can find you when you’re on Google.

Easy Peasy & Completely Freesy

One of the best things about getting your business listed on Google is that it is quick, easy, and free. “ONLY 10 MINUTES!” the marketing literature says, and that’s pretty much true. Basically, you simply hop over to https://www.google.com/business, search for your business, and lay claim to your kingdom.

You can follow Google’s simple guide (and get some other great tips) or this walkthrough or another guide or even this. You get the point.

Bottom line: it’s simple to do and free and puts you in control of your business on the most used search engine in the world. Why wouldn’t you do it?

Marketing Opportunities Ahead

Here’s probably the coolest part of controlling your Google business listing: you can add pictures of your business, respond to reviews, link to a menu, or even create a virtual tour. This is another way to connect with customers on a deeper level.

Just finish a remodel? Show off your new look on the search. Hungry for feedback? Ask your customers if they’ll give you a review on Google to spread the word (3 in 4 consumers say it’s important to read reviews before visiting a business, dontcha know?).

Your listing on Google is another touchpoint with your clients, and a gateway for potential customers.

Make Your Mark

Don’t be a part of the 63% that isn’t on the map. Make sure your business is listed on Google. It’s easy, quick, and free, and may just be the simplest way to connect with your next customer.

Is Your Website Still Not Responsive?

responsive_site

“Responsive design this. Mobile-friendly that. UX-focused every day of the week.”

If you have a website or are in the general business of connecting with people over the Internet, you’ve probably heard this phrase repeated ad nauseam: You need to make your website responsive.

But, wait a tick, what’s the big deal with having a responsive site? Is it really that important, or is it some web design fad? Before we answer the question, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about when we say “responsive web design.”

Responsive Design Defined

A responsively designed website gives visitors the best possible experience from a viewing and interactive standpoint, no matter the device being used. More simply put, your site looks good – like really good – regardless of whether you’re browsing on a desktop, tablet, laptop, or microwave (well, maybe not your microwave).

This is achieved by constructing and coding the site in such a way that the content of the page – the words, images, links, and widgets –fluidly adjusts to provide an appealing, if not optimal, browsing experience across a wide range of devices.

RWD in Action

Use your mouse to resize the width of your browser window. Smoosh it as tight as it will allow. Notice how the menu bar collapses, images stack, and copy condenses. Now, stretch the window across your entire desktop. The page nicely expands out to keep a consistent look and offer the best experience. Voila! Responsive web design.

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s neat, but what’s the big deal?”

I’m glad you asked, fictional-yet-inquisitive reader.

Aside from making your website look glorious on everything from a movie screen to the tiniest tablet, there are plenty of good reasons to make sure you transition your website to responsive web design.

SEO, Don’t You Know

First and foremost, responsive web design can have a very real impact on your SEO. In fact, Google has confirmed that it prefers responsive web design when indexing sites for searches. This isn’t news, either. Google introduced their mobile algorithm on April 21, 2015, making the shift to mobile-friendly, responsive web design even more important (and overdue).

There are a couple reasons for this but, long story short, an unresponsive site means multiple sites for multiple devices, a less-than-stellar user experience, and unnecessary and inefficient indexing of web content. That all adds up to a hit in SEO.

By having a responsive website, it’s easier for Google to crawl and index content from one URL instead of gathering it from multiple sites. Not only that, but responsive design also provides a better experience for viewers, giving you another positive SEO bump.

On Any Device, It’s Really Nice

Along with boosting SEO, responsive web design can help your website survive in our increasingly mobile world.

More and more, ordinary folk are turning away from their desktop-bound computers and using the technological marvels of our pocket internet machines to access the web. According to Marketpath,  55% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices.

But with mobile browsing comes many perils.

As many have experienced, trying to navigate a website designed for a 36-inch monitor on a smartphone’s miniscule screen can be described as annoying at best. In fact, that’s the kind of experience that convinces people to leave a site and never come back.

In the days of old, companies would combat this problem by creating two or more versions of their website to support both desktop and mobile browsing. But this solution brought its own issues. As you can imagine, supporting, updating, and managing two site with essentially the same content can be a headache. And other annoyances, such as differing URLs, inefficient use of resources, and more, only add to the problem.

Responsive web design solves all those problems in one fell swoop. Not only can a responsive site automatically adjust to match the device accessing it, but it also fosters a positive user experience, especially in the age of mobile browsing.

Basically, Responsive Web Design Rocks

The simple truth is that responsive web design is important for your web presence. Not only do you get the benefit of a fluid, flexible design that can work across devices, but you also get a site that bolsters SEO, a better experience for your visitors, and fewer headaches by managing one site.

If your site isn’t responsive yet, do it now. It’s well worth the investment. And if you need help figuring out how to get your new site put together or up and running, the tech team at the C-3 Group is happy to help.

Welcome to Planet Hack

the-hackers-are-coming

Phishing, DDoS, ransomware, worms, hacks: if you watch or read the news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about these sorts of cyberattacks. For many of us, they may seem like just an inconvenience in our everyday lives or a concern for large corporations like Target or even the federal government.

“Sure,” you may say, “I’m on guard for identity theft and other online schemes, but I don’t need to worry about it too much. Security firms and Uncle Sam will spar with cyberterrorists, hacktivist, organized crime, and curious computer programmers.”

Unfortunately, that’s just not true, especially if you’re a business owner.

A Scary New World
According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, 594 million people have been victims of cybercrimes globally. And, if you run your own website or have your business online, you may face additional threats.
In fact, a report to the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee found that 70% of data breaches occur at companies with fewer than 100 employees, even though 77% of small businesses believe they’re safe from cybercrimes.¹

And attacks don’t just target your data. Groups can take down your site, deny access to your customers, redirect traffic to malicious content, disrupt your brand identity, or just generally ruin your day.

We think we’re safer than we really are, and we can be attacked many different ways. How can we do a better job protecting ourselves?

Keeping Yourself (And Your Site) Safe
Just because there are a myriad of cyber threats lurking in the ether of the Internet doesn’t mean you should close up shop and go off the grid forever. But it does mean you should take precautions.

Yes, everyone needs to use some sort of anti-virus software on their computers and take care when surfing the web. Also, your hosting company may have some basic protection built into your site. But, you can—and should—take extra steps to keep your site secure, as well as make it easier to repair any damage if your site does come under attack.

Here are a few simple things to consider:

  1. Update your website, CMS, and widgets regularly – First and foremost, check your website to make sure it’s up-to-date. That includes any platforms (like WordPress and Drupal) or scripts that have been installed. Did you check it? Great. Now, check it again. These tools are constantly updated to patch security loopholes that can be easily exploited. Keep them updated to deter hackers at the gates.
  2. Back up your site frequently – According to Entrepreneur.com, 62% of small businesses fail to routinely back up their data. That’s just asking for trouble if your site is attacked. While having a backup won’t protect you from an attack, it will make it much simpler to restore your site once it has been compromised. It’s up to you whether to use an automated service or manually back up your site to store your vital data, code, and content.
  3. Install additional security software and firewalls – A firewall and security software can help block hacking attempts, filter out dubious traffic, and prevent the advance of hackers into your system. Many paid and free services are available, and some are even simple plugins for your site.
  4. Stay informed – You don’t have to become a cyber security expert, but you should take time each month to review your website for security flaws, ensure your backups are being made, and check what emerging threats may be on the radar. At the very least, you may learn when and how to prepare for new threats.

Alternatively, if you desire peace of mind but don’t want to manage the process yourself, you could always hire a dedicated IT team to handle your site, although the cost may be prohibitive. If you do need additional help but don’t want to go as far as building your own Geek Squad, you could ask your local web/design/advertising/marketing/all-around-awesome team to take a look and let you know how you might best protect yourself.

Regardless of what you do, take time to think about your cyber security and make a plan for how to protect your business. Cyberattacks, hacks, online scamma-jammas, or whatever you want to call them are a very real threat to your website and business. Whether you go it alone or ask for help, you’ll be better off having considered the issue.

References:
¹https://www.grsb.com/6-ways-protect-your-small-business-hackers-and-fraud
https://www.fcc.gov/general/cybersecurity-small-business
http://blog.trendmicro.com/trendlabs-security-intelligence/malvertising-campaign-in-us-leads-to-angler-exploit-kitbedep/
https://us.norton.com/cyber-security-insights
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241620
http://secure360.org/2016/03/5-tips-to-protect-your-company-website-from-attacks/
https://www.sba.gov/tools/learning-center-view-course/743081

Domain Names, Web Hosting, and Why You Need Both

webstuff

“I have a domain. Do I need web hosting, too?”

It seems like we hear that question or something similar at least once a week. It’s a fair and important question, because if you goof that up, your website could go poof.

First things first, let’s answer the question: Do you need a domain and web hosting?

Yes, you absolutely need both. To understand why, let’s take a look at what each does.

A Domain by Any Other Name Would Redirect to Your Site?

Plainly, a domain is your website’s address. In other words, it’s what people type into their browser to get to your site. You want Nike? Clickety-clack nike.com in the address bar and you’re there.

To get a domain, you work with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Name.com, and they’ll reserve your desired web address for a fee. While you have rights to the domain, it’s all yours. That means no other individual or company can use it. Neat.

But a domain is just one part of the equation. To deliver your website to the masses, you’ll also need a web hosting service.

The Web Hostess with the Mostest

At the most basic level, a web hosting service operates servers and rents out space to individuals and organizations to store their websites. Essentially, you pay to keep your stuff on a big computer that can be accessed via the web. Web hosting services, like Bluehost and HostGator, will store the files that make up your website.

So, how does your domain name work with your web hosting service?

An Address, A Building, and Your Website

Probably the easiest way to explain domains and hosting is to think about a building.

The domain is the building’s address. It’s how people find the building. Your web hosting is the structure itself. It’s what stores all the cool stuff you want people to come see. The rooms and furniture in the building are the pages and content on your site.

Now, you can have your address at an empty lot, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. And, you probably wouldn’t construct your building in the middle of nowhere if you wanted people to come visit you.

It goes the same for your webpage. If you have a domain name but your website isn’t hosted, yourawesomewebsitethatisreallycoolandstuff.com won’t connect to anything. The reverse is true, too. If you have your website hosted but no domain name reserved, people won’t know how to get to your site.

That’s why both a domain and hosting are vital for your website.

One Last Thing

Keep in mind, many domain registrars and web hosting providers now offer both products to customers. If you don’t use one provider for both services, it’s very important to ensure you’re up to date on billing for both. You wouldn’t want that shiny website of yours to go dark, would you?

Now Introducing, Chris Jasko

cjaskoHola, mis amigos. Me llamo Christophini Jaskopini. ¿Dónde está la biblioteca? And thus ends the Spanish portion of my introductory blog because I’m pretty much tapped.

Seriously, though, I am Christopher Michael Jasko the First, the newest member of this happy band known as The C-3 Group. I look forward to bringing the “skills that pay the bills” as the team’s Account Manager and Copywriter.

This is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to give you a brief overview of my life, schooling, and experiences. Honestly, that’d probably be a bore so I’ll save you some time with a fistful of rapid-fire fun facts:

  • I’ve been happily married for nearly 10 years. I’m contractually obligated to say that my wife is the coolest person ever.
  • My house was built in 1920. It is approximately 700 square feet. Now put five kids, two adults, and a dog into that space. Privacy and quiet are only concepts I’ve heard about from my single friends.
  • I raise backyard chickens. Please don’t tell the man. The eggs are tasty.
  • Dayton is my favorite city/place in the entire world. Costa Rica is a close second.
  • I am color blind (deutan color vision, specifically). No, that doesn’t mean I cannot see any color at all.
  • I once mashed seven pieces of birthday cake into my mouth at the same time. This was not my best look.
  • The common mallard is my power animal. Quack.
  • I received my BA in Journalism from Wright State University. It’d be groovy if I could go back for my Master’s degree.
  • If I were an album, I’d probably be “Out of the Blue” by Electric Light Orchestra. Sophisticated, beautiful, and grandiose, yet great for dancin’.
  • I’m a fan of the Oxford comma. Sorry.

There you have it: a nibble of information about one Christopher Michael Jasko. I’m glad you’ve had a chance to learn a little about me, and I’d happily share more if you’d like to swing by the office for a cup of coffee or two.

Anywho, I’m truly thrilled to be at The C-3 Group. We’ve got a pretty special group of folks here. I can’t wait to be a part of all the great things we’ll accomplish. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be a fun ride.

Is that enough? Sure seems like it. I just hope I hit the word count. Wait, is this thing still on? Oops.