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Mautic | How to Switch to the https:// Protocol (SSL Certificate)

Yesterday, I switched my primary website over to the https:// (secure) protocol. This article is not about how to purchase and install an SSL certificate – it’s about what to do with your installation of Mautic when it ceases to work (and it will cease to work properly) after you’ve installed that certificate.

WARNING: You’re going to need a few geek skills to pull this off. If you don’t have a reasonable understanding of how to edit templates, and are not confident inside your cPanel – do not, repeat DO NOT fuck with this – get a geek to assist you. Your hosting provider is not going to be enough to help you to pull this off.

This post is aimed at intermediate to advanced Mautic users.

The Symptoms…

First up, we edited the htaccess file and did the normal redirections that you’d do for a website that has a newly installed SSL certificate, setting up the site to always resolve to the https:// protocol. After we’d done that, we noticed that all of the embedded Mautic forms what we had on our (Joomla!) website had completely disappeared from the pages where they were installed. Clearly, something was wrong.

You’ll also notice that the word SECURE and the padlock which sits beside it on https:// enabled websites may not appear on some pages. Instead, you’ll see a circular icon. If you click this it will alert you that problems exist with the page and it may not be secure. Usually, that will relate to something that has inadvertently been hard coded on the page, such as an image file. In the case of Mautic, look first at your embedded forms as the source of the problem. I’ll cover how to diagnose and fix this later.

Edit Mautic Configuration

First up, you’ll need to clear your Mautic cache. Mautic does a terrible job of this and you’ll find it easier to simply delete the cache folder, which you’ll find located in the app folder of your installation of Mautic. Don’t worry about deleting the folder. Mautic will generate a new one.

Next, login into your instance of Mautic. Click on the gear icon (top right of admin panel) and navigate to Configuration. In the system settings you’ll see your website URL. It will be the old http:// URL – not the new https:// URL that you have with you newly installed SSL certificate. Edit the website URL to include the https:// protocol and click save.

When you click save Mautic will resolve to the User/Authentication Settings tab and will display and error warning in red. You need to add the same Email, First name and Last name as you already have entered in your user settings. Click save.

Edit Website Plugins

Chances are you are using a plugin to monitor website visitation, if you are using a popular CMS like WordPress or Joomla!. You will need to edit the plugin so that it recognises the new https:// protocol. Navigate to the plugin within your CMS and edit the URL, as required. Click save.

Edit Custom Themes

This next stop only applies if you have custom themes installed. Even then it may not apply if relative URL’s have been consistently used in creating those themes. Especially if your custom themes are older, there is a big chance that they may contain hard coded URL’s. Older versions of Mautic (back in the 1’s) sometimes rejected relative URL’s when creating templates. A quick look at the public pages of your template should tell you if anything requires attention.

Go to your cPanel (or use ftp) and navigate to your installation of Mautic, then navigate to the theme that you wish to edit. You’ll then need to go through html / html.twig files and edit any hard coded URL’s to reflect the new https:// protocol. Notably, pages and forms appear to be affected. I went through everything – and even cleaned up some messy code!

After I’d done all of that, everything seemed to work fine – except for one thing…

Edit Forms

Earlier I mentioned the problem of pages still being insecure. It only affected pages with embedded Mautic forms on them. The solution is simple. Mautic forms all provide a for a return URL (the URL visitors are directed to upon submission of a form). Navigate to each form and edit the Redirect/URL Message field to include the https:// protocol. That immediately cleared up my issue, with some pages displaying as insecure.

Warning

This was my first run through on this. I fully expect to uncover more issues in the next day or two. I’ll update this post as I identify and resolve those problems.

The Hidden Cost of Marketing – Non-Working Spend

I came across an extraordinary report last week. Produced by global marketing platform provider Percolate, the report focuses on the hidden cost of marketing – non-working spend. You can download a copy of the report here.

The average marketing budget allots only 48% to advertising

Percolate mostly deals with large global brands. I know for sure that most small businesses don’t spend anything like 52% of their marketing budget on non-working spend – but maybe they should. Let’s dig a bit deeper on what non-working spend actually is.

Non-working advertising spend

In a nutshell, non-working spend is the money spent on creative – not putting it in front of an audience (i.e. what you spend directly on advertising). Think of the cost of creating and maintaining your website, graphic design and printing of brochures, creating content for blogs posts, agency costs, performance monitoring and measurement expenses and the myriad other items that eat into your marketing budget that are not direct advertising spend.

Working advertising spend

Working advertising spend is what you invest directly on distributing the content you create – be it postage, paid ads on Google and Facebook, print-based ads, radio and TV commercials or the million other advertising options which exist. Working advertising spend is expenditure that directly delivers your message to your audience.

Why SME’s need to invest more on non-working advertising spend

Put bluntly, the typical small business generally lacks the internal skills (and time) to develop marketing strategies that predictably deliver new customers and a sustainable return on investment from advertising. Even those businesses that have a capacity to develop strong marketing strategies rarely have the internal resources to successfully execute tactics (most notably in the digital realm), monitor, measure and manage their marketing plans to success.

The Percolate report is very focused on reducing non-working advertising costs. For large corporations with internal marketing departments and vast amounts of capital invested in branding and the like, that makes a lot of sense. It makes almost no sense at all for a business where the owner writes boring copy for the company website and the receptionist designs (ugly and ineffective) marketing collateral, using Microsoft Publisher. These businesses need to spend more on their non-working advertising spend – generally a whole lot more.

Non-working advertising spend is a long-term investment

Think of it like this - what’s more likely to elicit a positive response from prospects; a poorly designed website built by your next door neighbours 12-year-old – or a professionally designed website built by people who know how to sell ice to Eskimos?

If you’re going to spend money on bringing people to your website, you might as well make the investment in fully optimised pages and a well-crafted message.

The same principle applies to researching your market, development of your primary value proposition, creation of an ROI-focused marketing strategy, selection of worthwhile marketing tactics, management and monitoring of your marketing and advertising campaigns – and most of all – investing in the people who bring all of that to life.

A final word

Modern marketing is complex. That’s especially the case in the world of digital marketing. One standalone tactic like AdWords, or SEO, or running Facebook ads is unlikely to work for your business anymore. You need a strongly focused and cohesive strategy that drives your decisions on what tactics to implement. You’ll also need a good team around you to advise upon, execute and manage your plan.

For smaller businesses, your non-working advertising spend may prove to be the decisive factor in whether your marketing plan succeeds or fails. Hire skilled people internally, or outsource your marketing to a company that has the expertise and people to make your plan work. Either way, you need to budget for the hidden cost of marketing - your non-working marketing spend.

Fiscal Purgatory - where foreign exchange becomes purified

Our company transfers money internationally at least twice per month. Ten minutes after I’ve initiated the transfer that money is no longer in our Australian bank account. More often than not several days will pass before our money miraculously reappears in our Hong Kong or Philippines bank account. So where does our money go during those days when it’s neither in our Australian bank account, or anywhere else? Nobody at any of my banks can tell me – but I think I’ve finally figured it out.

Welcome to Fiscal Purgatory

For those familiar with Catholic theology, Purgatory is an intermediate state after physical death, in which those destined for Heaven apparently undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven. 

Only those who die in a state of grace but who have not yet fulfilled the temporal punishment due to their sin can be in Purgatory. Therefore, no one in Purgatory will remain forever in that state, or go to Hell.

I’ve figured that’s what happens when I internationally transfer money – it goes into a state of limbo called Fiscal Purgatory – destined for another bank account – but not yet purified enough for the joy of entering that account. 

The wages of sin

All of my money obviously enters Fiscal Purgatory in a state of grace, but not yet having undergone sufficient purification to enter the joy of the destination bank account. That much is obvious because the money always arrives – eventually. 

Purification (without exception) involves the removal of some of my money through hefty bank transfer fees. More purification occurs through that great mystery known as currency exchange rates. If my money has sinned very badly, more purification might be extracted in the form of local government taxes and charges.

It’s hard to know in advance what the price of sin will be – but sin must always be paid for – in cash. Our bankers assure us that redemption is worth the price.

The miracle of forgiveness

Once its sins have been purified by hacking away small pieces of our money - and forgiveness has been granted - our money is permitted to experience the joy of being deposited to the destination account. I consider it a miracle if that purification process can be completed within just two business days.

Often, absolution takes longer – and shifts in exchange rates extract yet more purification.

The joy of absolution

So there you have it, people. You now know what happens to your money when it appears to be nowhere. Just be thankful to your bankers for purifying your money before it reaches the destination account. The sins of your money are absolved.

DISCLAIMER: 

What you have just read is a true story. Only the facts have been changed. Frankly, it makes as much sense as the complete bullshit that both ANZ (Australia) and BDO (Philippines) have tried to force-feed me today. 

Partnering on web-based business ventures? Why I (almost) always say no.

My first investment in a web-based venture was back in 1999/2000. A friend and I invested over $600,000 of our own cash into developing an internet dating site. We later tried (unsuccessfully) to list the fledgling business on the Newcastle Stock Exchange - during the height of the .dot bomb boom and bust. Back then I barely knew what a website was and probably knew even less about how to successfully market anything online. It was quite an expensive learning experience for me.

Up the learning curve I go…

Fast forward to 2016 and I’m a battle-hardened veteran of many hundreds of web development projects. I’ve been hands-on with everything from one page websites costing less than $50, through to developments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes took up to two years to complete. I now have a great team of people working for me and get (and need) a lot of help!

I’ve also owned and operated my fair share of money-making websites, along the way. I’ve engaged in e-commerce, affiliate marketing, online advertising – and made money from all of them. I’ve made serious money both from dealing in domain names and running online directories. I still engage in both of those activities, although my primary business now is creating and implementing online marketing campaigns for others. I do what I do because I happen to enjoy it. Yes, I like the money too – but it isn’t my primary motivation anymore. 

I’ve got this great idea – you can be a partner!

I’d love a dollar for every time I’ve heard those words fall from somebody’s mouth. I regularly have people coming to me with a “great idea” for a new web-based business that will somehow revolutionise the entire world. They have no web development expertise, and little or no money to invest in somebody else building them a website. They have no idea how to market online – and no budget to do it – but they’ll “give” my company 20% of their idea if we’ll build their website and “help” with the marketing for free.

Why I say no!

There are many reasons why I say no to these kinds of proposals. Here are some of the main ones:

Concentration

It doesn’t matter to me anymore if the idea is good or bad. What matters is the business that I’m actually in. I am passionate about what I do and about what my company delivers to its clients. I don’t have the time to be equally passionate about the ideas that people bring to me. Investing my time, energy and money into bringing their passion to life cannot be a part of my personal plan without interfering with the other things that I do. I like to concentrate.

Lack of business experience

Often, people who come to me with an idea, lack any real-world experience in business. That generally becomes apparent to me within minutes of starting to probe. Combine a lack of experience with a lack of hard money invested in a project and that usually equals a person who will walk away when things get tough. Most investors want to put their time and money behind somebody who is battle tested. I’m no different.

Lack of marketing expertise

This one should probably be at the very top of my list. Web-based businesses are not like Field of Dreams, where “If you build it he will come”. I could probably write a fifty-paragraph rant just about this one thing. Best left alone!

Lack of any viable revenue model

Many (maybe a majority) of would be web-entrepreneurs fail to put any real work into developing a revenue model for their web-based business idea. So many times I’ve seen their eyes glaze over when confronted on this issue, as they stammer and stumble to explain how their website will EVER make any money. I know, Google and YouTube and Facebook all started out that way. I get it. I also get that your business is unlikely to be the next one of those.

Poor potential returns

Following hot on the heels of lack of any viable revenue model is its blood-brother, poor potential returns. Many would be entrepreneurs seem clueless about the need for a business to earn a solid return on investment. In my experience, few prospective web-entrepreneurs attempt to compile any realistic numbers projecting sales, expenses or profitability. It’s as if these basic business tools are not required because “it’s the web – the market is HUGE!”. If only that were enough!

Risk aversion

I might miss out on the next Facebook. I’m far more likely to miss out on investing in a loss-making venture. More than 35 years of being in business has taught me that businesses fail more often than not. That holds true even for large companies in start-up situations. Look at the recent Masters Hardware disaster, presided over by retail behemoths Woolworths and Lowes. Even when circumstances are absolutely ideal (as was the case with Masters Hardware) far more businesses fail than manage to succeed. 

Some final thoughts

I love entrepreneurs. I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life and know first-hand the agony and the joy that goes with the territory. I’ve made and lost millions of dollars. I’ve dwelled in an ivory tower and lived in a car. I’ve drunk $1,000 bottles of wine and borrowed money from relatives just to eat. I don’t think there’s anything about the entrepreneur lifestyle that anyone could tell me, that I haven’t lived for myself. 

When a would be web-entrepreneur brings me a new and exciting proposal I don’t want to pour water on it – but I probably don’t want to invest in it either. It’s their dream, not mine. They need to find a way to bring it to life and that’s undoubtedly why they are talking to me and probably, many others. That’s what entrepreneurs do and I love them for it. They make things happen.

Just please, don’t get disappointed when I turn you down. It’s got less to do with you personally than you could begin to imagine.

Mautic – More Full of Bugs Than a Bait & Tackle Shop

Let me start this post by saying that I love Mautic. I hate Mautic too. For those who don’t know, Mautic is an open source marketing automation tool. I really believe that in the long term Mautic will revolutionise digital marketing. I believe it so much that my company has staked its future on Mautic in many ways – but that’s another story.

Get out the bug zapper!

Not much goes smoothly with Mautic. Multiply that by 10,000 if you are running Mautic on you own server, rather than using their hosted solution. I know how to install Mautic. Hell, I even made a video on about it that has proven to be popular on YouTube. That doesn’t mean that everything went smoothly from day one. I have personally put HUNDREDS of hours into coming up the learning curve on Mautic. Much of that has just been ironing out the bugs. You’ll need a thick skin to work with this baby.

Server configuration issues unlimited

Every time I turn around Mautic appears to have developed another server configuration issue. I’d estimate that about 97% of all problems I’ve ever encountered with Mautic are server configuration related. When Mautic fucks up (as it will) go looking for server permissions problems first.

You’ll need the help of your hosting support, unless you are very server savvy yourself. The team at Liquid Web have been outstanding with us. I’d conservatively estimate that they have poured maybe 100 hours plus into support chats and tickets with regard to Mautic. It took several months (literally) to get things just right. In case you’re wondering, the Liquid Web claim of “Heroic Support” is the real deal. They rock!

Mautic server requirements – a dark mystery…

Mautic provides basic server requirements on their website. Those basic requirements are tested by Mautic upon installation and it will throw an error message if your server fails to meet them. That is FAR from what is required to get Mautic running correctly. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive guide to Mautic server configuration. It’s trial and error. I’ve tried to raise some interest in the Mautic Github Community to create a comprehensive server configuration guide but none of the devs seem interested. I’m sure that thousands of people walk away from Mautic each week out of the sheer frustration of being unable to get their server configuration right.

Froala Editor: The editor from Hell!

Mautic utilises Froala Editor. Froala Editor is an abomination. There. I said it! I totally get that the Mautic dev team wants to make Mautic user friendly for Mums and Dads without technical skills. That is a worthy objective. Unfortunately, Froala frustrates the shit out of people who do possess technical and creative skills. This horrid tool cannot be easily disabled in Mautic and strips code when users attempt to save using the code editor. Truly horrible behaviour.

I’ve been vocal within the Mautic community to get rid of Froala Editor. Thanks to one of the dev team explaining the realities of how many interdependencies there are with Froala, I completely get why ditching this tool is so difficult. It is due for deletion in a future edition of Mautic, so watch this space for updates.

Social integrations

These seem to be difficult at best – and just don’t work at worst. I’m completely lost with what’s supposed to work and what isn’t. What I do know is that when this stuff is finally sorted out, Mautic will become an indispensible tool in monitoring the social activity of your leads – all from within the Mautic CRM.

Email Hell

Mautic boasts a variety of email integrations. Some work better than others. Some don’t work at all. Part of that is related to the SMTP service providers, like SparkPost. Part of that is Mautic. Again, this is a feature that improves with each update. Same deal with the horribly buggy Campaign Builder.

Some Mautic Love

I haven’t written this post to be critical of Mautic. I love the product. I love open source. This post is a warning. As much as Mautic likes to position itself as something that anyone can use – that’s bullshit. That may change as the product evolves. Right now, you’re going to need some geek skills just to make Mautic work. You’re going to need intermediate to advanced geeks skills to make it work well, or you’re going to need somebody who has those skills helping you.

Mautic promises a lot. It delivers on most of those promises – if you have the technical skills to take advantage of it. If you don’t you’ll end up confused and frustrated. Right now, Mautic is a tool for web marketing professionals. If you accept that and get the help you need, you might also find that it can completely change the way that you do your marketing.

Keep up the awesome work team Mautic!

Large Mautic Campaigns – Workaround for 100 Actions / Decisions Limit

This post is for people experiencing difficulty with building larger campaigns (more than 100 decisions / actions) with Mautic.

The problem with Mautic Decisions & Actions

By default it appears that Mautic (as at version 2.2.2) imposes a limitation of 100 decisions / actions when building campaigns. You will be able to save more than 100 decisions and actions, but will notice that Mautic strips the green or red links joining those decisions and actions. That means that your campaign will break down at the point of those breaks. Here is what it looks like:

The Workaround for Mautic Decisions & Actions

This assumes that you already understand the basics of Mautic campaign building, such as the need for Segments and Channels (such as emails). This is a workaround is for email sequences and does not cover the finer points of contacts, forms, point scoring, etc. Here is what I did.

1. Create Multiple Contact Segments

First up, I created multiple Contact Segments, which are really for the same group of Contacts. In my case I had a Contact Segment which was capturing leads from a Mautic form. I created a second Contact Segments and simply renamed the first, just to tie them together:

Lead Segment 1
Lead Segment 2

Lead Segment 1 continued to capture leads from my Mautic from. I’ll cover what I did with Lead Segment 2 later.

2. Create Multiple Campaigns

I created two Campaigns and named them, again to tie them together for my own review purposes.

Lead Segment Campaign 1
Lead Segment Campaign 2

3. Create Campaign 1

In Lead Segment Campaign 1 I set up a campaign with around 80 decisions / actions (mindful of the 100 decisions / actions limit imposed by Mautic).

My final action in the campaign was to:

Change Campaign
Add Contact to Lead Segment Campaign 2
Remove contact from Lead Segment Campaign 1

4. Create Campaign 2

Create Campaign 2, effectively as a continuation of Campaign 1.

Helpful Hints

To pull this off you’ll need to think the campaign through from start to finish. The fist campaign that I did this with was a simple auto-responder sequence. There were a total of eight emails in the campaign with the decision of Open Email set to trigger the next email in the sequence after one day. The decision not to open an email triggered the next email in the sequences after 3 days.

How I worked around this was by setting up Change Campaign to trigger immediately the Contact opened an email, if within one day – and otherwise within two days. I then set up Campaign 2 to trigger after one day – meaning that the one day for opens / three days for non-opens rhythm of Campaign 1 was maintained.

Mautic has more bugs than a tackle and bait shop. This is not perfect and I don’t think for one moment that it will work well for every situation. If you think it through you will find it’s a fairly good workaround for a lot of situations when creating large Mautic Campaigns. Good luck with it!

Sponsored Home Service Ads. Is Google About to Make a Wrong Turn?

Before Google there were a heap of search engines. Those who’ve been using the internet for a long time will undoubtedly remember the heydey of Yahoo!, MSN, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Excite, LookSmart and range of other forgotten dot.com bubble darlings. Many of these early search engines were little more than modern day commercial directories – vying for advertising dollars by placing businesses at the top of search results.

Hail Google!

Google burst onto the scene in 1998 with a search engine that seemed to offer real results, unaffected by commercial tinkering. They moved on to capture the vast majority of the worldwide search market in a timeframe that still staggers the imagination. Since then, Google has launched AdWords and other services and gone on to become the largest and most successful advertising platform in history. Remarkable barely begins to describe it. I wonder if Google is about to make their first real misstep?

3 Pack Home Service Ads

Google began testing “3 Pack” Home Service Ads in the San Francisco Bay area, in 2015. The idea was to rank three local home service businesses at the top of organic search results, with one of those placements being a sponsored (i.e. paid) placement. That experiment has apparently gone well. Word in the online marketing sphere is that Google will be rolling out 3 Packs across greater San Diego and later, more of the US, starting in November – but with all three placements as sponsored (i.e. paid) placements.

Thanks for the Money!

Multiple paid placements seems like quite a departure from the Big G’s originally stated intent, which was to rank well-reviewed service providers at the top of organic results and provide consumers with a guarantee of quality. In fairness to Google, that guarantee will apparently remain, with Google prepared to refund consumers for sub-standard work performed by 3 Pack advertisers. It is a compelling offer and many consumers are going to like it. I do!

Consume Only the Content Google Wants You to Consume

With all of that said, Google seems to have almost completely departed from the business of providing the kind of raw search results that they were once so famous for. User intent is now captured and measured. Results are individuated and served on a perfectly prepared platter, with everything presented just how the Big G’s latest algorithm predicts you’ll like it. Increasingly, what the Big G is serving up is what they are being paid, for you to consume.

Time for a New Player?

What Google has done is a great achievement. It’s also a little boring. Lost is the simple joy of “surfing” for what you really wanted to know – and finding stuff that you never even thought about before! Personally, I kind of miss that. I know that others do too – but that’s not the point of this blog. The point is, I wonder if Google has gone too far in its quest for profit – and left the door ajar for a new “raw” player to enter the market. I think back on all of those old school search engines and know that stranger things have happened. Food for thought for all you garage based coders out there…

Google to Divide its Index, with Mobile Set to Become the Primary Index

In what can only be described as HUGE news, Google has today announced that they will be splitting their index in two – and that mobile will become their primary index. So why is this such big news? Here’s some food for thought…

Mobile search will be fresh

In announcing that mobile will become their primary index, Google has recognized the waning popularity of desktop. Most search is now done on a mobile device. That is where the action is at for Google. Mobile content will be refreshed more often than desktop content. Google hasn’t stated how often they will be refreshing what they serve to desktops, just that it won’t be refreshed as often as the primary (mobile) index.

Mobile devices now rule!

Google started delivering mobile friendly results years ago. This shift means that if your content isn’t mobile friendly it may not be delivered AT ALL on their primary index. Unlike the big G’s 2015 algorithm update which affected search results for websites that were not mobile friendly, this Mobilegeddon is the real deal. If your website isn’t mobile friendly it simply will not appear on the primary Google index.

Responsive design might be over

Most mobile friendly websites use responsive design. Larger websites (like news portals) tend to use mobile design. So what’s the difference between the two, you might ask. In simple terms it’s this;

Responsive design allows your website to “resize” itself in order to accommodate the screen resolution of the device being used to view your website.

Mobile design presents visitors with a completely different template, based upon the screen resolution and/or device they are using.

The difference in appearance and performance between these two types of design can be huge, with a well designed mobile site coming out a mile ahead of any responsive website. If I had to grab my crystal ball and look into the future, I’d lay my money on mobile design becoming the new normal.

Search Engine Marketing is in for a HUGE change

Most pages are currently built with desktop devices in mind. Most ads are skewed the same way, with mobile almost being an afterthought. The implications for SEO are potentially massive. As the shift to mobile design evolves, not only will different designs be presented to visitors, maybe different content will be presented too in order to maximise the benefits of using two indexes – each operating with a different algorithm.

A final word

The world of digital marketing is never static. This is easily the most important change in search for many years. My own website is responsive. I’ve already begun investigating how easily we can redesign the website and go with a full mobile design. Long term, I think it’s going to be that important.

"AROUND HALF OF ALL PASSWORDS CURRENTLY BEING USED TODAY CAN BE CRACKED IN SECONDS DUE TO THEM BE VERY WEAK, AND ANOTHER 45% CAN BE CRACKED WITHIN A FEW HOURS". Even in the digital era, passwords can still be easily compromised. In fact, some cyber-security problems are due to human errors, which include creating a weak password that is easy to guess. No matter the level of sophistication of technology, your organisation will remain vulnerable to threats if you do not have stronger forms of authentication. It is like installing an alarm system, but leaving the door open to intruders. Perhaps you are one of the many users who simply create a password for compliance. When prompted to create a password, you obliviously key in some letters and numbers. Something like password123456. If weak passwords expose you to cyberthreats and data breaches, you need to create SUPER STRONG PASSWORDS to increase your data's level of security and protection. Super strong passwords are longer passwords with a minimum of 18 characters. It can be taken from random sources, affirmations, famous quotes or even published sources. Passwords or passphrases have to be unpredictable. Watch the video to learn more about creating super strong passwords.

 

I recently had cause to sack a client. That’s not exactly a new thing for me, but it’s not something I’ve needed to do in quite a while. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve had to do it in several years.

The client in question (let's call him Richard) runs a professional services business in a major Australian city. We’d built Richard a killer website, and had it ranking like a demon on Google for all of the keywords that really mattered to him. Richard had traffic. He had fresh leads pouring in each month. The problem is, Richard is a dickhead. He’d get new clients, get stoned or drunk (often both) - abuse them – then lose them. Somehow, that became our fault!

You can have the best website in the world. You can fill it up with great engagement and lead capture tools. You can implement killer auto-responder sequences, and have decision and action based sales funnels that would be the envy of any business. You can have a social media presence that makes you look like an expert. If you’re running a small business and you are the front man (or woman) you also need to be somebody that people want to deal with. People are going to need to like you.

I could write this exhaustive list of things that you need to do in order to have people feeling the love. The truth is, if you really need a list like that you’re probably a dickhead anyway. I can’t help you. You need a different kind of help to what I can offer. All I can say is “stop being a dick”.

Life is far too short to deal with dickheads. I don’t do it. I find that life is so much better that way.

Last year my company trialled a variety of CRM’s and project management systems. Zoho was amongst them.

Initially, I was super-impressed with the vast capability of the Zoho system, and we moved quickly with trialling a variety of Zoho tools and applications. Within a few months, it became apparent that the breath-taking complexity of the system meant that we could not convince team members to use tools efficiently, and we dropped it – but that is not what this post is about…

During our Zoho experience, we decided to try them out as a lead capture and auto-responder system for a new client – something similar to MailChimp. The client organized a paid subscription, last August. Due to the difficulty of using the Zoho system, the account was never used, and the client neglected to cancel it. About two weeks ago, Zoho emailed my client and asked them to update their credit card details. The client asked us to assist with cancelling the account.

Initially, I assigned this task to a junior staff member. It seemed simple enough – cancel a Zoho subscription. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I ended up personally wasting over two hours, running around in circles to try and figure out how to cancel the subscription and terminate the account. It turns out I wasn’t the only one having trouble. Zoho’s forums are FULL of pissed off people, who also can’t figure out how to do this. The answers provided by Zoho support on their forums are misleading at best, and downright deceitful at worst.

 

I eventually emailed support. Three times. I also made two (completely pointless) phone calls. In my final email to Zoho I threatened legal action if they didn’t respond. That seemed to do the trick. Here is their response:

Hello Tony,

My sincere apologies for the delayed response.

We see that there is a Zoho Campaigns account under '[clients email]'. Since a paid service is active, you cannot close the organisation online.

To update card information or to downgrade the Campaigns account, you need to log in as Super admin '[clients email]'.

Kindly follow the below steps to change your credit card details online,

  • Login to Zoho Campaigns account as Super Admin.
  • Click on the Upgrade link (at the right top of the page)/ Settings module --> Subscription.
  • In Subscription page, you will find Change Credit Card Details below Current Plan Details.
  • Click on the link to change the credit card details.
  • Enter the required details and click Save button to confirm.

We are updating our user interface, so that you will have all advantages as the other Zoho Products.

For downloading the invoices:

As of now we do not have a Link where you can download the Invoices relating to the Zoho Campaigns service. But If you would like to get all the invoices, I will provide you all the invoice copies in a separate e-mail.

Before closing the account, you will have to downgrade the account to a free plan.

Please follow the steps to downgrade your Zoho Campaigns subscription details,

  • Login to Zoho Campaigns account as Super Admin.
  • Click on the Upgrade link (at the right top of the page)/ Settings module --> Subscription.
  • In Subscription page, you will find Cancel Your Subscription below Current Plan Details.
  • Click on that link to cancel the subscription.
  • Click Cancel Subscription button to confirm.

Once your account is downgraded, Please send us an e-mail, so that we shall delete the account form our end.

We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused and will certainly look forward in assisting you regarding this.

Thanks & Regards,

[nameless support idiot]
Zoho payments | Zoho Corp

As ridiculous and convoluted as their procedure for payment deactivation and account closure is, they do in fact have one. You just can’t find it online – and that appears to be a very deliberate omission on their part. Others and myself are wasting hundreds of hours attempting to find this information, which they make as difficult as possible to obtain.

My advice to anyone considering dealing with Zoho is – well – don’t. I hate to say it, but it’s clear that this organization sets out to make the task of closing an account as difficult as possible. As if that isn’t bad enough, they clearly withhold that information from their website, and their support team only responds to serious threats of legal action. That’s not a great deal, however you look at it.

In a later blog I’ll detail my experience of using Zoho. It’s something that seemed great as first blush, but which failed to live up to expectation.

It will come as no surprise to anyone involved with social media that Google+ looks set to R.I.P. Introduced in a flurry on 28th June, 2011 Google + was touted as a “social layer” that enhanced many of Google’s online properties. The platform now claims over 1 billion users, and Google claims that 357 million of those users are active. External estimates are generally far less generous. In Australia, regular usership is anemic when compared to other platforms.

** Social Media Statistics Australia – February 2015

1. Facebook – 13,800,000 users (steady)
2. YouTube – 13,500,000 UAVs
3. WordPress.com – 6,100,000
4. Tumblr – 4,700,000
5. Instagram – 4,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users (Facebook/ Instagram data)
6. LinkedIn – 3,300,000
7. Blogspot – 2,850,000
8. Twitter – 2,791,300 Active Australian Users (see calculation)
9. TripAdvisor – 2,000,000
10. Tinder – 1,500,000 Australian users (my estimation)
11. Yelp – 1,500,000
12. Snapchat - 1,070,000 Active Australian Users (see calculation).
13. Flickr – 700,000
14. Pinterest – 350,000
15. Reddit – 160,000
16. MySpace – 120,000
17. Google Plus – approx 60,000 monthly active Australian users (my estimation *revised*)
18. StumbleUpon – 50,000
19. Foursquare/Swarm – 25,000
20. Digg – 18,000
21. Delicious – 16,000

(All figures represent the number of Unique Australian Visitors [UAVs] to that website over the monthly period unless otherwise stated).

Key Points to Note:

LinkedIn sees a rise over the month as more users come back to work from summer holidays.

I’ve had an independent researcher come to me to confirm there are about 60,000 monthly active Australian users on Google Plus, which is inline with my own research. Globally the figure is around 12 million active users per month. It is clear with these numbers that the social networking aspect of G+ is only used by a very small percentage of internet users.

Most other social networks see small increases or decreases over the month.

** Statistics compiled by SocialMediaNews.com.au for February, 2015
** Stats courtesy Vivid Social Research Division. Figures correct as of 28/02/15.
** Licensed under Creative Commons License CC BY-ND 3.0L.

We saw the end of Google Authorship in August last year. It hasn’t been specifically spelt out yet, but it seems pretty clear given today's announcement that Google + could well be destined for the scrap heap of Google history.

More Disruption

There was a time when my entire business revolved around Google. I owned directories and provided SEO services for a variety of clients. I also owned a number of highly profitable affiliate properties. Panda and Penguin changed all of that. I rejigged my business to accommodate Google Authorship, and the gazillion other changes that Google has made. I invested time and money in building out Google + pages for myself and clients. I have to wonder why. As a webmaster, and full time internet marketing consultant I’ve become sick of all the changes. Google, I’m going to start ignoring what you want – and do what I want.

Google – no longer the only game in town

Google is no longer the only game in town. There are endless social media options, paid search possibilities and other ways to expose your website. I’ve now reached a point where I ask clients to provide great content on their website – not because Google loves it – but because their customers love it. I then suggest a range of ways to promote that content that don’t involve Google organic search. It’s become far too unreliable. I like the Google AdWords platform. I hate their organic search results. I hate the Google + social network. It sucks. That’s the real reason that people don’t use it Google. Wake up to yourselves!

A final rant

Google’s organic search results have been getting somewhat better. Just yesterday, a report on newscientist.com stated that Google is considering putting itself in charge of online truth. They now want to rank websites based upon facts, instead of the current methodology of largely using popularity. Will I like it that nutty anti-vaxxer views fail to rank organically when people search for “vaccines”? You bet! Do I like it that somebody, somewhere is setting up their own Orwellian version of the Ministry of Truth? I think I can do without that, thank you. Sorry Google, but you guys a really losing the plot! OK, rant over.

Yesterday (26th February, 2015) Google announced something that everyone in the informed seo community has been expecting for a long time now. Effective 21st April, 2015 they will be expanding their use of “…mobile friendliness as a ranking signal”. In their statement Google went on to say that the “…change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” Wow!

Mobile Friendly Websites

Mobile friendly websites come in a range of different guises. The two most common types are mobile websites and responsive websites. So what’s the difference between the two types of websites, and which is best for you? Here’s a non-geek explanation.

Mobile Websites

In general, mobile websites are designed to detect the kind of devices and/or operating system being used to visit the website. The site then presents a template which has been prepared especially for the kind of device and/or operating system being used by the person visiting the site. You’ll see from time to time when you visit websites that the URL (domain name) may change from day www.website.com to www.m.website.com. The additional “m” at the start of the URL is generally a dead giveaway that you are visiting a website that offers mobile templates to users.

Responsive Websites

Unlike mobile websites, responsive websites provide users with just a single template. Responsive templates are designed to detect the device type and then adapt to the size of the device being used by the visitor. The site will generally look quite different on say a desktop, tablet or smartphone. The website you are on right now is a responsive website.

Mobile or Responsive – What’s Best?

The short answer is neither. And both. Having developed, managed and used both kinds of mobile friendly websites, I have formed a view about that. Here’s the basic stuff that I think you need to consider.

User Needs

What do your visitors need and want when they visit your website, and what are their expectations? That will vary a lot!

If you’re running a national news publication, you’ll very likely have a large visitors of visitors, using a wide range of devices. They will expect a fast loading website, pages that render quickly in their browser, easy navigation, etc. If you failed to deliver that, users would quickly cease coming back, and your online news portal would quickly go out of business. A business like this will probably have full time web developers and programmers on staff – and for some reasons I’ll dig into later, a mobile website is probably the best option for them.

If you’re running a small local business, say a legal practice or an electrical contracting business, users will expect something quite different to an online newspaper. Firstly, you’ll have far less visitors than a news portal, using a much smaller range of devices. They’ll be more tolerant of pages that don’t look like the front cover of Cosmopolitan. They won’t mind if pages take just a little longer to load, and they certainly won’t be planning to come back and revisit your website every day. For these reasons, and a few others that I’ll dig into here, a well-coded responsive website will almost always be better for these kinds of businesses.

Ease of Management

Many small businesses like to manage the content on their websites. They’ll often log in to change pricing, update offers, or post something on their blog. Some mobile templates will require you to load the same image in multiple sizes, or may require managers to use html or other code to render videos correctly. Most business owners just don’t speak html or css – and don’t want to learn. For this reason, they may find a mobile website too challenging to manage.

Most responsive website templates are designed for Content Management Systems (CMS), such as WordPress, Joomla! or DotNetNuke. This website is built on Joomla!. The advantage of a CMS is that they offer an intuitive editing environment, very much like Microsoft Word. As long as pages are not overly complex, most business owners can do an efficient job of editing their own pages, adding images, etc. With a responsive template, these need only be added one time, with no further resizing of images, videos and the like required.

Budget

Mobile websites can cost quite a lot to build and are relatively expensive to maintain. Why is that? In simple terms, your website will become multiple websites, and offer visitors multiple templates. That means that for every template you present, the content of your website has to be presented in a different way. Fonts will be smaller. Images will need to be resized. Videos that you have embedded will need to shrink to fit smaller screens. Headers and sliders may need to disappear altogether. I takes a lot of work to manage all of this, as well as constantly updating templates to deal with changes to operating systems, browsers and new devices. The cost of maintenance alone can be astronomical – especially for businesses that regularly update or add content to their site.

Responsive websites tend to be much cheaper to develop and certainly require less maintenance. Responsive templates vary greatly, in terms of quality. The very best templates are extensively coded, and developers offer an upgrade path for the template. This means that the responsive template is regularly updated to take into account new operating systems, browsers and devices. A quality responsive template is coded to cater to the greatest number of the most commonly used devices. With a well coded responsive template and a solid upgrade path, the cost of maintenance are fairly minimal.

A Final Word

For most kinds of business (especially small, local businesses) a good responsive template will almost always be the best option. With Google now stating that mobile friendliness will be a ranking signal, business owners need to get across this and make their websites mobile compatible. By the way, right now more than 40% of all search done in Australia is undertaken with a mobile device. You just can’t afford to neglect this.

I only began using social media actively in December, 2012. Prior to that, I’d been a knuckle dragger and resisted the urge to use Facebook as anything more than a business tool for building social signals. Something I did purely for SEO purposes. I saw it strictly as a necessary evil for somebody like me, who depended upon organic search engine rankings on Google.

My, how things can change!

These days, I’m a prolific user of social media. I live in Asia. My family lives mostly in Australia. I have friends, associates and clients dotted around the globe. For the most part, I keep up with everyone via Facebook. That’s just where people seem to gather. In some respects, it seems to serve the modern day equivalent of church socials and town hall meetings. It’s a place where people with ties and connections, shared beliefs and common interests gather. Check it out, and Facebook (or LinkedIn, or some other platform) will have a group that meets your interests and needs. Most often, you’ll be invited by friends who know that you have an interest to join these groups – much as might happen in the physical world. That’s great, but I have observed something interesting going on. Something that I’m not too sure I like.

The truth about “friends” revealed!

When I started using Facebook, I became friends with people that I had known throughout (or at some point during) my life. I quickly found my feed filled with pictures of their kids, pets, homes, workplaces, favorite restaurants, and a million other scenes from their everyday lives. I saw posts from news stories that they had commented on, stating their views. I saw posts appearing about those things which were passions within their lives. I saw personal triumph and awful tragedy. I saw humor. I saw great insights, I saw outright stupidity. Truthfully, I didn’t like everything that I saw.

Targeting your world view

Facebook, Google and increasingly, every online platform try hard to cater to your every interest and need. In doing so, they also try (often successfully) to filter out those things which might displease you. Looking at my own experience, Facebook and I have systematically filtered out the things that I don’t like seeing on my feed. Annoying relative posts too many pictures of their fat, ugly cat – no problem – that’s what the unfollow (not to be confused with unfriend) button is for. Abracadabra – no more fat, ugly cat pics. Some church group feeds you too many annoying pictures of Jesus – no problem – that’s what the report post button is for. Do it enough times and like magic, Jesus just disappears from your feed for eternity (pardon the pun). So, where’s the downside you ask?

Social Media Bubbles

Do enough unfollowing and post reporting, and you’ll soon have a clean, trouble free feed. The question is, how diverse will that feed be? Will it just become a place where everyone shares your views and beliefs? Has it become a place which blinkers your view of the world? I think that for many (me included), that’s exactly what it does. Do anti-vaxxer views annoy me? You better believe it! Should I really be completely obscuring those views from my world? Damn, that makes me about as ignorant as religious cult nutters, locked in a walled compound! As nutty as I might consider anti-vaxxers to be, I need to know that they’re out there. Right now, I’m hating the protective little bubble that I’ve created.

Time to burst the bubble

Right now, just as soon as I’ve finished posting this blog, I’m going to re-follow the hundreds of people I’ve unfollowed on Facebook. I’ll undoubtedly see the demented ranting’s of Jesus freaks, some horrid snot-nosed children, plenty of fat ugly cats, and the frenzied comments of some virtual imbeciles. I’m going to embrace every bit of it. Facebook, I no longer want you to edit what I see. Just feed it to me baby – and I’ll decide when to just scroll by.

Australia’s current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is not a popular man. Abbott swept into power in 2013, on the back a giant backlash against the previous Rudd / Gillard government – and has made himself less popular virtually every day since that time.

Personally, I think that Abbott leaves a hell of a lot to be desired as a leader, but really don’t think he’s any worse than the economic vandals that he replaced. I’m sure that plenty of Australian’s share that (or a similar) sentiment. Ostensibly, Abbott is a fine, upstanding citizen. He’s worked diligently for several decades to rise to the heights of Prime Minister, has been an active member of his local community, is a fitness fanatic, and solid family man. So what’s wrong?

Hardly anybody relates to him. The man is a walking example of somebody who is seen as completely out of touch with the average Australian. His own party knows this, and just today Abbott faced down a vote of no confidence in his leadership, by his own party. He won todays battle, but I believe it will prove to be a pyric victory. Abbott will undoubtedly end up losing the war, and the cost to his political associates will be tremendous. Nothing highlights just how out of touch Abbott really is, as his contempt for social media.

Abbott recently described social media as “electronic graffiti”. When he did that, he said unequivocally to every Australian social media user (try most of the population) that their opinions just don’t matter. People use social media as a place to gather, share opinions, exchange ideas, form alliances of like-minded individuals, and interact with friends and foes alike. It’s the new Town Hall – and Abbott treats it with contempt. Today, that contempt backfired on him in a big way.

A group of Abbott supporters started the #ImStickingWithTony hashtag on Twitter, in advance of the anticipated showdown that Abbott faced off today. Unfortunately for Abbott and his supporters, the results have not been what they might have hoped for. The hashtag has trended since late last week, and is still trending as I pound on my keyboard. Some of the results have been hilarious!

Abbott has found out (very much to his detriment) that social media is now perhaps THE driving force in politics. It is the place where people gather to put expression to their frustrations with government, in an open and often provocative manner. Abbott, and future leaders would do well to take note of the shift which has occurred, and start treating all the “electronic graffiti” with the respect it deserves. Business owners would be well advised to do the same!

I’m often asked by people about the value of displaying Facebook Likes, Twitter Tweets, LinkedIn Shares and other social media signal buttons on their websites and blogs. In order to fully address that, I think that we need first to take a good look at what a social signal really is and how search engines interpret them.

What is a social signal?

In simple terms, a social signal is a link from somebody’s social media page (such as a Facebook or LinkedIn account) to your web page. When visitors to your website or blog click a Facebook Like button, or Google+ icon, they are creating a link directly from their social media account to your page that they have Liked or G+’d. This lets those who are connected with that person via social media know that they have found some value in whatever it is that you have posted. It’s a vote of confidence in what they have viewed on your web page - and something that they think is perhaps worthy of attention from others that they are connected to. It’s always great to have people appreciate what you have taken the time to create, but what is the significance of that from a Google search perspective?

A brief overview of how Google works

Google has a complex algorithm that it uses to determine what appears in search results when you type a particular search term into their search engine, and utilizes a wide range of factors in order to deliver you a result. One of the more significant factors in that algorithm is the number of links to your webpage(s), and the relative importance of the pages that are linking in. For example, if your company makes rocket engines, having links from the NASA website might provide Google with some comfort that your company makes decent rocket engines. If your website had another link from the Virgin Galactic website, that might add further credibility. On the other hand, a link from your local hamburger store might hold less value to Google. Think of a link (including social signals) as a vote of confidence for the content you have provided.

What does Matt Cutts say about social signals?

For the non-geeks reading this (geeks already know exactly who he is) Matt Cutts is head of web spam at Google. There is a reason why Matt and his team exist – and that is because as you now know - Google uses links to your web pages as one way of determining the relevance and usefulness of what you have posted. Unfortunately, some webmasters in the past have manipulated Google’s search results by producing and linking less than useful content to key web pages. Matt and his team work overtime to make sure that search engine results remain as untainted as possible, by detecting and punishing attempts at algorithmic manipulation. Any experienced webmaster will be able to tell you just how effective they are at this too!

Anyway, I have embedded a four minute video that Matt posted to the Google Webmasters page on YouTube a little while back. The video is specifically about the effects of social signals on organic search rankings for web pages, and I found it most interesting. In effect, Matt is saying that Google is not (to his knowledge) placing any particular significance upon social media signals. This is (in part) because of the difficulties associated with crawling some social media pages, and also the great speed at which interrelationships between social media users change. Here’s the important part - whilst Matt acknowledges that some pages with plenty of social signals rank well in organic search, he notes that’s correlation, not causation. In effect, he’s saying that the content was probably great to begin with, which is why it has plenty of social love!

What is the future of social signals?

My educated guess would be that the value of social signals will increase dramatically over time. Google, as well as other search engines and social platforms, are working very hard to ensure that they know who is responsible for posting what online, and where. As platforms become more integrated, and leading platforms make it more difficult to hide your true identity, anonymity diminishes. With diminishing anonymity comes the sort of transparency that makes attribution easier, and more reliable. Does that make for a better or worse internet? Maybe that’s a good topic for another post sometime. For now, it’s important to understand that this sort of transparency provides opportunities to build real authority, and the future of the internet as a communication tool lays in authority.

What about Authority?

The original thrust of this post was to question the value of displaying social media engagement buttons on websites and blogs. My view is that these buttons provide a ton of both short and long term value to webmasters and bloggers. The Google algorithm gets better over time. Just a few years back search results could readily be manipulated with web spam. Today, that is largely not the case. It’s just a matter of time before the Google algorithm becomes smart enough (if it’s not already) to rank the “authority behind the authority”.

Tiger Woods and sub-aquatic golf shoes

I often use the example with clients of me stumbling across a web page about golf shoes, and Liking it. Google knows (or should know) from my social media pages that I don’t play golf. I like to scuba dive in my leisure time. Unless the page is about sub-aquatic golf shoes, I don’t think that my opinion about them is really that relevant. On the other hand, if Tiger Woods was to stumble across the same page, and he Liked it, that would be an entirely different matter. If Greg Norman saw that Like on Tiger’s Facebook feed (I’m assuming they are friends on Facebook here) then himself visited the page and Liked it, that would be cause for excitement! Two golfing greats Liking a page about a particular type of golf shoes is something that golfers would want to know about.

To use, or not to use?

It’s clear from what Matt Cutts says in his video that Google is super interested in establishing authorship, and thus authority. Social media by its nature is a first rate way for Google to determine what people value in the real world, how many of them value it, and the authority behind what it is that they value. In the present, social media does exactly the same thing for webmasters and bloggers. Every time a visitors provides their stamp of approval for your content by clicking on a social media icon, they are also telling those they are connected with about the value of your content. My view is that any webmaster or blogger who fails to have social media buttons integrated on their website is missing a most valuable opportunity to get their message out there – and is just plain crazy! Install the buttons. Suck up their value!

I originally published this article under the tile “Social Signals & Authority on Google” on i-Business, on 17th September, 2014. The post contain only minor edits.

Let me start by saying that I love Facebook. I live in Asia. Most of my family lives in Australia. I have friends and relatives scattered literally all over the globe. Since I started using Facebook I’ve reconnected with long lost cousins, friends that I thought I might never see again, school mates and old Army buddies. Every day I enjoy the experience of being able to see my kids, grandkids and extended network of family and friends living their everyday lives. It’s a portal to a world that was all but unimaginable just a decade ago – and I for one like the view.

It’s free and always will be

When you signed up for your Facebook account, you may have noticed the positioning statement on their home page that says “It’s free and always will be”. Facebook has always proclaimed that it’s free to use Facebook and would remain that way. That may be the case for people who use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with family and friends. It’s certainly no longer the case for commercial users, many of whom have invested large amounts of money to develop a presence on Facebook. Right now, some commercial users like Eat24 are actively closing down their Facebook pages. Personally, I’ve all but ignored my own Facebook fan page for some time. I’ve been telling some of my social media clients to do the same thing.

Facebook – the greatest marketing tool ever invented?

By rights, Facebook should be the greatest marketing platform ever unleashed. They have the data to understand your every interest. Facebook knows who your friends are, and probably have enough information to understand what drives your friendship and makes it work (or not). Depending upon what you share, they know where you have lived, where you have visited, what restaurants you eat at, your sexual orientation, your religious and political views, and what kinds of computer, tablet and smartphone you own. They may know where you work, what your profession is and roughly how much you earn. Facebook knows a LOT about you. So why isn’t every marketer on the planet falling over themselves to advertise on Facebook?

Three things that small businesses hate about Facebook

Firstly, small business owners resent the fact that Facebook is trying to make them pay, in order to display content to their own, hard-won Likers. Many business owners have allocated considerable time and resources to building a Liker base on Facebook, only to have Facebook pull the rug out from under them. Without digging onto the whats and hows and whys of it, Facebook now only feeds new posts to around six percent of Likers. This means that if a small business has developed a Liker base of say 10,000 people, anything they post on their Facebook page will only be fed to around 600 of their base. To feed posts to more Likers, Facebook now demands payment to “boost” the post.

Secondly, small business owners hate the fact that Facebook (according to their terms of service) “owns” all of the content that they post on Facebook. Let’s face it, if a business goes to the trouble of creating something that it believes is worthy of sharing with its Likers, why would they want Facebook to own it? From a purely legal perspective, business owners probably shouldn’t post anything that they value on Facebook at all!

Finally, (and most importantly) small business owners are waking up to the fact that Facebook is not somewhere that people go to in order to buy things. Reality is that when people hop on a search engine like Google to buy something, they will search for something specific. They’re looking to buy, and any ads that they might see are really not an intrusion. They can even be helpful. People don’t visit Facebook to search for products and services. They visit to catch up on family and friends, post pictures of their cat, and play Candy Crush Saga. Ads are an intrusion.

Is there anything left to love about Facebook?

Sure. I really don’t think that small businesses should abandon their Facebook pages. As a tool of personal recommendation for small, local businesses, Facebook can be word of mouth marketing on steroids. I’ve seen friends asking if anyone knows of a good plumber in such and such a place, or asking for information about where to purchase certain items locally. The power of Facebook is undeniable in these circumstances – but it’s not a paid ad – it’s a personal recommendation. Sales leads just don’t get any better than this, and Facebook is an awesome medium for producing them.

Should I pay for ads or Likers on Facebook?

Probably not. If your business is a local service business, I’d have to question the value of paying for exposure on Facebook, at all. The truth is that people are only going to get a new accountant when their old one dies or retires. They’re only going to try and find a plumber when their toilet is broken. Chances are, they’ll go to Google to search for those services. On the other hand, if you are in business as a health and nutrition consultant, chances are that you can develop an engaged audience which is keen for day-to-day health tips – and developing a community of Likers on Facebook, and paying to boost your posts may be a viable option for you.

Just think about it…

Think of things this way; how would you react to the kind of ad you are thinking of placing on Facebook, if it was to pop up on your feed? How much time would you be prepared to spend reading the sort of posts that you could create for your own Facebook fan page? How often would you be interested in seeing a post appear on your feed about the kind of business that you run, if you were an average Facebook user? Ask yourself these questions. Ask your friends, family and colleagues too. Chances are they go onto Facebook to catch up with family and friends, and to be entertained. It’s just possible that they don’t want to see your products and services on there. It’s also pretty clear that Facebook just doesn’t love you (or me) like they used to.

Remarketing – Facebook is trying to win my love again!

For those business owners who are unfamiliar with Facebook remarketing, you need to find out about it. This article from Facebook News is about a year old. It’s probably more worthy of a read now, than what it was when Facebook first published it. Marketers can now use Facebook as a way to reengage with people who have already visited their website, by installing a “pixel”. Think of the pixel like a tracking device. It will follow your website visitors to their Facebook page, and serve your ads to them – remarketing to people who have already demonstrated some level of interest in what you have to sell.

Why Remarketing Works on Facebook

Remarketing works on Facebook because it is not intrusive. This is not about businesses posting something share-worthy, and hoping that it goes viral. This is not about trying to get the attention of somebody with no interest in you, or your products. It’s about placing your message in front of somebody who has already put their hand up as a potential buyer, by visiting your website. You are reengaging with somebody who has already demonstrated an interest – you are not intruding – they have already thought about you before. The potential power of this kind of advertising cannot be overlooked.

A final word

Many internet platforms start out free. Google is a great example. When they began, everything was free. Google introduced AdWords in 2003, and it has since gone on to become the most successful and profitable advertising platform in history. Facebook has long struggled to monetize its own operations in a way that meets with shareholder expectations. My guess is that remarketing may just be the thing that finally takes the platform to the moon. My advice as a marketer – Facebook remarketing just cannot be ignored. Jump on it!

This blog has been edited and added to substantially, from a post I originally published on 15th September, 2014 at i-Business.com.au .

Let me start this post by saying that I’m not a geek. I’m a highly experienced Joomla! user, who has developed a whole bunch of Joomla! websites over the years, including some reasonably complex directories, ecommerce stores, etc. Generally, I rely heavily on the awesome developer community that is behind Joomla! and use a wide variety of both non-commercial and commercial extensions. I think that this is how most people who use a content management systems like Joomla! or WordPress tend to manage their websites.

PDF Embed for Joomla!

I recently needed to display a large number of PDF’s for a client, on their Joomla! website. Naturally, I wanted the PDF’s to present well and be searchable. I did my research, and came up with the very highly rated PDF Embed extension. The extension installed easily, and was simple to configure and use. I had pages up and working within a few minutes – with one issue – pages would not render on any version of Internet Explorer, or any IOS (Apple) device. I checked the forum. People know about the problem. Nobody knows how to solve it!

html based (non) solutions

I did a lot of searching, and found lots of people (probably unknowingly) suggesting PDF Embed and other non-functional solutions to the problem. Apparently, Internet Explorer is a nightmare with this and Joomla doesn’t have a native solution to the problem. The best thing on offer appeared to be creating a link to the PDF from within an article, using a tool like the (totally awesome) JCE Editor, or coding in some anchor text. Not at all what I wanted.

Here’s something that actually works!

Google Docs offers an undocumented feature that lets you embed and display both PDF’s and PowerPoint presentation files within a web page – and the files don't even have to be uploaded to Google Docs - they just need to be available online. You’ll need to use an iframe to do this. Here’s the code you’ll need to make it work.

<iframe src="http://docs.google.com/gview?url=INSERT-YOUR-URL-FOR-YOUR-PDF-HERE&embedded=true" style="width:850px; height:1125px;" frameborder="0"></iframe>

You will need to replace the text that says INSERT-YOUR-URL-FOR-YOUR-PDF-HERE with your own web address (URL) where your PDF is located.

A warning about iframes

Some hosts prevent you from using iframes, and your text editor will rewrite the code by inserting a hyphen like this; i-frame into your code. If this happens you will need to talk to your host and either have them install the code for you, change your permissions so that ifames can be used, change their firewall settings – or whatever else might need to be done.

A final word

I found this to be a simple and robust solution to my problem. I tested it on all major browsers and with all widely used operating systems. It worked just fine on all of them, but it was slower to load than when I was using the PDF Embed plugin. Maybe that’s just a Joomla! thing. In any event, this solution worked for me and I can recommend it. Good luck!

I have a super-cute Cocker Spaniel puppy named Tyrion. Just yesterday, my lovely lady took a photograph of him wearing sunglasses and posted it on Facebook, tagging me. Within minutes, Tyrion had more than 20 people “Liking” his photo and commenting about what a beautiful boy he is. Tyrion is a beautiful boy and we adore him. His photograph says it all really. Unfortunately, many professionals think that’s what social media is all about – posting pictures of your dog on Facebook.

Because I sell social media training as part of my core business, I am accustomed to being asked by professional service providers about the value of social media to their practices. I frequently find that professionals have a negative view of social media, and are somewhat myopic about it where their business lives are concerned. People will often make comments to the effect that Facebook is only good for arguing with complete strangers, or that Twitter is a stupid waste of time. There was a time when that world view reflected my own. Now, social media literally drives my business.

In the dark distant past (that would be less than a decade ago) the internet was very much a one way means of communication. You put up a website, optimized it for visibility in search engine results, and told your story as well as you could to those who visited your web pages. It was very much like having a brochure or catalogue in a digital format, with no real opportunity for customer engagement. Social media has changed all of that profoundly, providing a literal gateway to customer engagement. Unfortunately, most professional practices have not yet caught on, and caught up with this seismic shift.

Every professional knows that the greatest source of new business is referrals. Satisfied clients tell their friends and associates about their happy experiences with you. Those friends and associates get in contact, and before you know it you have a new client. The longer you stay in business, the more this cycle repeats itself and the stronger your client base grows. It can take years, but building referrals is a time-honored and surefire way of building a great professional practice. It works. Your practice is built just by people talking to one and other.

The primary advantage of social media lays in the number of people that your happy clients can express their satisfaction to, as well as the speed with which they can do that. Let’s go back for a moment to my dog Tyrion, and the 20 + Likes he received on Facebook yesterday. I have around 150 family and friends on my personal Facebook page. My lovely lady comes from a very large family and is far more sociable than me. She has close to 500 Facebook friends. Facebook has a complex algorithm that determines who sees what you post. Without digging into how that algorithm works, we can safely assume that around 100 of our combined friends saw Tyrion on their Facebook feeds – and that 20 of them thought his photo was cute enough to “Like”.

Each one of those 20+ people who “Liked” that picture of Tyrion effectively made their own Facebook friends aware of Tyrion too, meaning that Tyrion started to get Likes from people what we don’t even know. This is exactly how things go viral in a social media environment. People Like and Share images, videos and other content that they think will be of value to their network of family, friends and associates. My guess is that as I write this blog, that picture of Tyrion may have been seen by thousands of people, and will get even more Likes today and tomorrow. The trick of course is creating content that people want to Like, Share, Tweet, Pin, etc. In professional social media circles, that content is known as “share worthy” content.

As a professional, there is bound to be something that you know more about than other people in your field. If you’re an accountant, maybe you know more about how to stream investment income to the lower taxed family members of your clients. If you’re an IT consultant, maybe you have particular expertise with building complex databases. Reality is that there is going to be something that you know enough about that you can produce an article, or a video, or something else that people will want to share with others on social media – and when they do – they share it with everyone in their network – not just a single friend. Best of all, social media provides you with an opportunity to engage directly with those people who Like, Share, Tweet and Pin the content you’ve created, and the extended network that they’ve shared that content with.

The truth is that accountants, lawyers, engineers or any other professional can benefit enormously by becoming engaged with social media. Within your own social media network, and the extended social media network of the people you are connected to lays an untapped goldmine of prospective clients. It’s up to you to gather your tools and go to dig there.

This article was originally published on 26th February, 2014 at CNN iReports



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