Archive for the ‘Tools for Small Business’ Category
Friday, April 12th, 2013
If you run a business online, or take credit card payments through your website, then you’ll have to consider information security. It’s the most important concern for online businesses that take payments through their website or another online interface. Why is it so important? Because consumers are concerned about identity theft and credit card fraud.
As they should be.
This is a real threat to anyone with a credit card. And when you think about all the places a credit card number shows up when someone enters their private information into an online form, it’s really daunting. Many consumers have no idea where their credit card information shows up, and they are afraid of being victimized. You, as the merchant, must ensure that your customers’ private information is not compromised, and you need to reassure them that you can process their credit card with limited liability.
That’s a hard thing to do, but it’s a lot less difficult with an information security process in place.
The PCI Security Standards Council, created in 2006, established the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to help online merchants protect their customers and protect themselves from the fallout which follows credit card fraud and identity theft. It is important to secure your website, web forms, and credit card payment systems so that your customers are safe and your business is not liable. That’s why Small Business Mavericks supports the efforts of FR Secure. You should too.
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Google recently announced a new tool webmasters can use to fight spam or to clean up after a bad SEO campaign. It’s called the Disavow Link Tool.
But this tool does come with a warning.
Google’s head of webspam team, Matt Cutts, said that most webmasters will not have a use for the tool. For instance, if you run a Mom & Pop shop and do your own SEO, you may not need it, especially if you religiously follow Google’s webmaster guidelines. However, if you are a small business that hired an SEO firm to manage your search engine optimization and found out later that the SEO company used questionable tactics that you weren’t aware of and didn’t approve, then the Disavow Link Tool might be very important to you.
That happens more often than any of us would like to admit.
If that has happened to you, be sure that you do everything you can to remove bad inbound links to your website before you use this tool. One of the things you have to do is upload a Disavow.txt document, and in that document you have to tell Google what you have done to remove bad links. It’s possible that Google will ignore your request if they feel like you haven’t done enough on your own to remove those links.
It is becoming increasingly more common that bad inbound links will hurt search engine rankings. That increases the importance of the Disavow Link tool. Even still, webmasters should think twice before rushing to use the tool because you can harm yourself worse by using it the wrong way. At least, that’s what Matt Cutts says, and who am I to argue?
Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Google, as always, is branching out. They’ve recently made two new developments that have already gotten the blogosphere talking.
The first one may not seem much, but it could be over the long term. They’ve add an Events tab to the social network Google+. Again, that doesn’t sound like much, but this is a popular feature on Facebook and the fact that Google+ is adding the feature means that they are serious about competing in the social arena.
Keep saying that Google+ isn’t competing against Facebook. That’s right, keep saying it. But what will be the next Facebook feature they decide to add to Google+?
Google’s New Tablet
There were rumors earlier this week that Google would unveil a tablet. And they did just that.
The tablet is called Nexus 7.
The price is the same as the Kindle Fire and it pretty much has the same capabilities. But Google is sweetening the pot with a few extras if you purchase one.
Of course the big difference between Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 is the operating system. Google’s Nexus 7 is stacked with the most popular mobile operating system, Android. It also comes with the Google apps you are likely using often, such as YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, and Google+.
The Nexus 7 website doesn’t say what format e-books for the tablet are formatted for, but I suspect you’ll be able to read ePub and PDF just fine. That’s my guess.
So How Will Nexus 7 Help Small Business Owners?
You might be tempted to ask, “So what?” Actually, it’s a big so what. Google being the No. 1 search engine on the planet and committed to helping consumers find the best content in the formats they prefer, if you are a content producer in the video, music, e-book, or magazine formats, then this is a golden opportunity. I expect the Google Nexus 7 to be a major player in the e-book reader market within a couple of years and will probably even drive some of the smaller readers out of the market.
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
If you like Google’s Webmaster Tools, then you’ll likely find Bing’s new Webmaster Tools helpful. Some of these look like they’re mirrored or modeled after Google’s tools. And they probably are. But that doesn’t matter if they’re helpful.
Here’s a look at the new tools Bing is offering webmasters and that are now in beta:
- Link Explorer. Looks helpful. You can find link information about any domain on the internet whether you own it or not. Great for competitive research.
- SEO Reports. You’ll get a weekly report telling you how well or how poorly you are doing on 15 SEO best practices.
- SEO Analyzer. You can enter the URL of any page on any of your verified domains and Bing will analyze that page to see how you are doing with SEO.
- Fetch as Bingbot - See how your web pages look to the Bing searchbot.
- Canonical Alerts – Receive automatic alerts to let you know if your rel=canonical tags are working properly.
- URL Removal Tool – Don’t want a particular page listed in the Bing SERPs? Have it removed.
- Keyword Research Tool – Research keywords using Bing’s keyword research tool and compare the data to Google’s
What do you think? Are any of these tools helpful to you as a webmaster? Will you use these Bing webmaster tools? Which ones do you think will be most helpful to you as a webmaster?
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Can I see your website right now? Go on – go and check, I’ll wait. You can probably view your pages just fine – here’s some news – it doesn’t mean that I can. I’m not being facetious either – this is a serious question. There can be any number of problems with your website, and you may not know about them. To begin with, if your browser caches your website, which it probably does if you visit several times a day, then what you are looking at could be from your cache, and not your live site.
Then there is the period when your away from your computer, away from your office, perhaps even at home with your feet up. Your website could be down, and it could be costing you customers, subscribers, and perhaps even have a short term effect on your search rankings. It can be frustrating to arrive in your office the following morning to find your website down, and that you have not conducted any business in the previous 12 or more hours.
Website monitoring services are designed to constantly check your website to ensure that everything is running smoothly. They will check your home page, your shopping cart, and any other pages that are important to you. Depending on your business, and the monitoring service you hire, they can also check from various parts of the world, and various parts of the country. This will help to identify network issues. A monitoring service will also check for time issues identifying when your website are very slow to load.
Most importantly, a reliable monitoring service will send you email updates advising on how well your website is performing. An up market monitoring service will also call you on any number you designate letting you know when any serious issues arise. Often, there is little you can do except harass your hosting company. If you have a dedicated server, you need to arrange to have that looked at immediately to ensure your business is up and running as soon as possible. If you have used a website design and development consultant to help you set up your website, ask them for a recommendation for a good website monitoring service.
Monday, February 27th, 2012
I am often surprised at the different mind sets between online and offline business owners. In reality, a business is a business – no matter the environment in which it is conducted. Security is a thorny issue with consumers. They want their data protected, especially when it comes to their email addresses, their postal addresses, and more importantly, their credit card numbers. When we talk about online security, there are number of issues at play – your customers data, your own data, and the integrity of your website.
Bricks and mortar business owners know all about security. Client information is often locked in a filing cabinet, in a locked office inside a locked building. Some businesses also have a locked fence around the perimeter, guard dogs, intruder detection systems, and even real people as nightwatchman.
Move from the bricks and mortar environment to an online environment, and security goes out the window. Small businesses in particular are vulnerable to attacks on their website. In most cases, they are attacked by those looking to create mischief, however, that mischief can result in your website being de-indexed by the search engines, and visitors warned off your site. It won’t take long to kill your business if there are no customers entering your site.
Customer data is important, and in recent years there have been several attacks on businesses attempting to gain access to that data. As a business person, you need to treat your online business in much the same way a bricks and mortar business. Locking your customers data away is not difficult – it’s even easier if you use third party billing systems, and only keep the minimum customer data necessary.
Your website is no different. That too can be protected in many different ways – and the required software doesn’t have to be expensive. Start with a quality host and half the battle is won. Small businesses are easily destroyed because of holes in their security. There are many tools for small business that can help plug holes, use them, and you and your customers can rest a little easier.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
If you are one of many people out of work and have been out of work for a while, take the initiative and start a small business. It is not as hare-brained as some may think. One, the United States needs more businesses and you need to go to work. Think about the skills you have and utilize them to start your own business.
New business start ups have been steadily declining for several reasons. However, the country needs new business as that is how this country was started, by entrepreneurship and hard work.
Even if it is not your skills, but maybe something in your area that needs a certain product. For instance, if you live in an area that does not have specialty furniture, like rustic furniture. If you know that there are enough people in the surrounding area that would purchase from your store, go for it. It could be any number of things that might be easy start up businesses in your community.
Options for financing include visiting with lenders in your area or applying for a small business loan through the small business administration. They have a number of resources available and can help those wishing to start a new business.
Another consideration is starting your business from home. If it is possible, it will save you thousands of dollars in start up costs alone.
There are a thousand ways you can start your own business. It also beats sitting around waiting for that job interview to call. Take the initiative and be your own salvation. Once you get the business going, you will be glad that you started it.
Saturday, December 31st, 2011
For small businesses, making more sales is what keeps your doors open. We have talked about a lot of ways to boost your business and get your name out there. It’s been mentioned a couple of times, but mailing lists are one of the most important marketing tools you will have.
It’s important to keep mailing lists up to date with current postal addresses and email addresses. You may only use this list to send out newsletters or flyers every once in a while.
Think about ramping up your mailing list by adding new customers to the list and using it for more than a newsletter. You could make several templates of how-to tips, products, or did-you-know facts. Whatever your business is, use that business for all kinds of ideas you can use in a mailing list.
Most regular customers will expect your mailings as they are used to getting them, but new customers like the feeling of a welcome letter maybe coupled with a discount coupon in appreciation of their business. It makes them feel like you value them, which you do. You just need to do something to reinforce that feeling.
The single most important thing you can do in building a business is to build customer confidence in you and they will come back. Customer loyalty goes a long way in making a business a success. Mailing lists help you do that. You may not see a regular customer but once every month or so. Let them know about special sales that they might be missing in between their visits.
Think about your mailing list. Clean up any discrepancies and ramp it up for the coming year and you will be surprised at how much it will help you and your business.
For ideas or help with setting up mailing lists, visit a small business consultant who can get you on the right track.