Category Archives: Tips & Hints

What the April 21st Google Update Means to Your Business

Google has been rolling out lots of changes to apps, Google Play and the presentation of mobile search engine results all in preparation for a larger algorithm release that is scheduled to be released on or around April 21st.  As we learned from past Google algorithm changes (Penguin and Panda), these updates can greatly impact where your site ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The update set to be released on April 21st is focused on providing a better search experience for mobile users. To accomplish this, Google will be “expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” So what does that mean to business owners? If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your mobile search engine rankings could take a hit.

In an email sent to Webmasters, Google has indicated that they are looking at the following factors when determining if your website is mobile friendly or not.

  1. Content not sized to viewport – This means that the content of your website is not resizing to match the width of the viewer’s screen. This will result in text that is challenging for user to read and may cause a horizontal scroll bar making site navigation a challenge for the user.
  2. Touch elements too close – links and buttons that are clickable on a mobile device need to be approximately 12-20 pixels apart to make for easy touching on a smaller screen. Having your buttons, links or other touch elements too close together will cause a usability issue and will  make your site not mobile friendly in Google’s algorithm.
  3. Flash usage – Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation.

The first thing you should do if you are concerned about this update, is run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test ( If you get the following message, you are good to go.





However, if you get a message that looks something like the one below, then you’ll want to take immediate action.









The nice thing about this update, is that Google is giving webmasters exact tasks they can do to make sure their websites are not negatively affected. If your website turns up a not mobile-friendly message, here are the actions you can take to course correct and avoid a decrease in mobile ranking after April 21st.

  1. Check with your webmaster – it’s possible that your website just needs a few tweaks to make it mobile friendly.  Make sure to get a couple examples from your webmaster and run them through the Google Test above. If they pass, there is a good chance your provider can help make your website mobile friendly as well.
  2. Find a new provider – if your current provider cannot create a mobile or responsive site for you, it’s time to start seeking out a new vendor. If you are looking for a new provider, make sure you find one who is well versed in Search Engine Optimization. You don’t want to create a new site with a mobile solution only to jeopardize existing desktop rankings with non-optimized titles and a changing URL structure.
  3. Test and test again – once you have a mobile solution in place it’s important to check every page of your site to make sure all links work and that pages are loading properly.

Though it may seem reactive and hurried, website owners are going to have to adapt to the new mobile-centric digital marketing universe. Since Google is the industry leader, when they give a command, it behooves business owners to follow.

What is your plan for the Google Mobile-Friendly Update? Let us know in the comments below.

Leaving an Effective Voicemail Message

I recently responded to a dealer’s question as to whether or not he should leave a voicemail response when making a prospecting phone call. My gut response was: “Why wouldn’t you?”. Then it occurred to me that question behind the question was really: “Why should I leave a voice mail when it is unlikely that I will get a call back?”

Based on that question, my response would be the same, but with some additional information. Why would you take the time to make a call and then hang up when you go to voicemail? Of course you want to leave a voicemail message! But, understand that you may not get a call back after the first call. Just make sure that the message you leave provides a compelling reason to call you back.

Cold calling can be hard, but, if done correctly, it can help move the prospect to want to do business with you. Calling to touch base is a wasted call – for you and for your prospect. Recognize that his time is valuable, too, and your message is an unwanted interruption in his day. If you do not have something compelling to say, you are deleted before you even get started. If you are not providing immediate value to the prospect in the first few second,s your opportunity disappears with the flick of a finger.

Remember that, in a world where everyone has more things to do than hours in the day to get them done, you must emphasize value at each touch point. The more value you provide, the more touch points you will be granted. If you have had previous contact with the client, use information gathered in that meeting to move forward in the sales process:

“Bill, you mentioned that your primary lead-generating tradeshow is just a few months away. If we are going to maximize your results at this year’s show, we need to put into play the strategy we discussed right away. Let’s get together and discuss implementation plans.”

If you have not had prior contact, then share insights and knowledge about the client’s business. Your client wants to work with knowledgeable people who can help him, not the other way around.

“Jim, a number of my customers are also printers, and they report a steady decrease in the quantity of items that they are printing for their clients. I’d like to share with you a couple of ideas we have implemented for them to not only stop the slide of revenue, but actually increase their gross revenues and bottom line profits without adding expensive equipment or requiring additional staff. When would be a good time to get together?”

At times, your client may seem to have no good reason to not move forward, yet they still hesitate. In these cases, you cannot tell what she is thinking. There may be myriad reasons why they have not pulled the trigger. One of these may simply be “the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t.” In these cases, you simply must empathize and continue to educate your prospects. A message like:

“Sally, I know that you have limited time and resources, that you feel you are already overworked, and that the thought of developing a new service offering may be overwhelming to you right now, but I wanted you to know we are here to help you every step of the way. I am sending you our process overview to help you see that what we are providing goes along well with your current processes. Let’s set up a time to discuss your concerns.”

If you are not leaving meaningful and relevant messages, then you are simply wasting time. You must provide value to your customers today in order for them to continue to want to do business with you or to switch from the status quo.

As an executive with a good memory and excellent tonal recognition that gets too many sales calls from people who simply want to sell me their products and/or services, I thought I would share with you some of the biggest mistakes I encounter from people attempting to talk to me.

Here are the top 5 voicemail mistakes made while prospecting:

1. Pretending you have called before when you haven’t.

2. Not planning your message in advance.

3. Talking about your products/services, instead of a problem resolution that matters to me.

4. Not leaving your name and contact at the end of the message. Better yet, leave it at the beginning and end so that a prospect does not have to listen to the whole message to copy the information. Also, speak slowly; this is not the time to see how quickly you can leave the information. If your message is of interest, nothing kills that interest more than having to hit replay a dozen or so times trying to figure out what your number is.

5. Giving up too soon. Most prospects won’t return your call until you have tried them more than 9 times. I am no different. Even if I am interested, life may prevent me from returning your call at that moment and I am not going to look for your number when I am ready.

Use these tips to improve your calls and messages. These strategies for leaving a message are even more important when you do get through.

Let me know your thoughts – agreements or disagreements – and anything that has worked well for you.

Every Social Media Icon You’ll Ever Need

Since we started posting directions on how to add social media icons to various email client signatures, we’ve been getting request to post icons for other social media outlets.

So here it is! Just about every social media icon you could ever want!

Note: Type in the code from the image below. Sorry you can’t copy and paste it. The code should be all on one line. Line breaks in the images are arbitrary due to the size of the page.

If you need to copy and paste – download the PDF to copy the code.

Content Organization

Quality content is an absolute necessity for a successful website. Any web-savvy person could tell you that without decent content, a website will actually hurt your business, driving customers away. We’ve written about the importance of writing quality content before on this blog, but what does that mean? What qualifies as “Quality Content”? There is no simple answer, but there are a few basic things you can do to make the whole process run more smoothly and result in higher quality content…


The Guidelines

For all  website content, there are a few basic guidelines to follow. Whether it is a product description or a news article, all of your content should:

  • Be directly relevant to your website.
  • Be keyword rich.
  • Be direct and concise
  • Be closely proofread and edited
  • Offer useful information. Web users are looking to be informed and to learn about their options, and they can tell the difference between an honest product description and a blatant sales pitch. You should let your products or services sell themselves by providing specific, honest information. Accuracy in the product or service descriptions will ensure customer satisfaction and encourage return business.

The Basics

While there is a great deal of flexibility about the organization of the key elements of a website, there are a few things that all small business websites should have:

Home Page – This should be a concise and fairly general description of your business. Think of this as the elevator pitch of your website. You want a brand new visitor to be able to tell the point of your business and website within a few seconds. Below this very basic introduction you can go into more detailed information if you’d like, such as…

About Us – This could be a page all about the employees at your business, just about the owner, or a general company history. Either way, this should give the viewer an idea of the ‘culture’ of your business. Give them a hint of your businesses’ personality (just try to make sure that it’s a nice one). When in doubt, a touch of humor can work wonders.

Products/Services – Now you must get into the nitty gritty of the website. You must answer the viewer’s question “What do you have to offer me?” Chances are that, if the viewer has bothered to navigate past the home page, they are already interested in finding out more about what you offer, and possibly looking to buy. As long as your home page gives an accurate idea of what your site provides, the viewer should find what they’re looking for here.

Contact Us – This page should have all appropriate contact info for your business. For a restaurant site, this should include driving directions or a good map, and a phone number. If applicable, include business hours, reservations, etc. Essentially this page should include everything that a customer looking to buy might need in order to make that purchase.

Even if you don’t have a physical location, you need to be accessible for questions or comments from potential customers. This can be as simple as a comment submission form or as elaborate as a detailed quote estimate. You don’t want to miss out on business simply because you didn’t have a way of answering a customer’s questions and your competitor did.


The Organization

Last but most certainly not least is the early preparation and careful organization of your content:

For the sake of clarity, consistency, and lack of duplication, all of the content for a site should be written and organized outside of the website before you even complete the design. If you put off creating your content until the last second, you may realize that you need to make major changes such as creating new images or completely reorganizing your navigation, and that you’ve just wasted hours of someone else’s time and your own money. This becomes more important and potentially expensive if the site requires special modifications.

Beyond preventing the hassle of having to redo completed work, writing your websites’ content beforehand allows you to organize exactly what your business and your website is about. This will help you to balance the content between pages or by subject, get rid of any unnecessary or weak content, and make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything important. This also means that you will have the time to have another person edit your work or to put the content away for a while – ideally a few days to a week – and return to it later for editing with fresh eyes.

Last, but possibly most importantly, you absolutely need to have all of your content organized beforehand if you’re not going to be populating your site yourself. While you might know exactly where you intend to go with half-written content, and vague instructions, it can be very difficult to translate those intentions to the person who will be wresting with your content, and this can lead to misinterpretations, frustrations, and delays.

You’re going to write the content anyway, aren’t you? So, save yourself a few headaches and complete it all beforehand. In the end, the time and planning you put into it will be reflected in the quality of your content and the speed with which your site can be taken live.


Web Browsers 101

Web Browsers 101


What’s the difference between Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox? How often should I update my browser? How do bookmarks work? What does that button do? Ok, now I’m just having fun, but with so many different browser options out there, it can be easy to get confused or frustrated, especially if you have to use more than one. The solution: Browsers 101, all the basics in one simple guide. Let’s get started!


Continue reading

Adding Social Media Icons to your Gmail Signature

We have had so many good questions and posts on our blog about adding social media icons to your Outlook Signature, that we figured we’d create a similar instruction set for Gmail. To add the Twitter and Facebook Icons to your Gmail Signature, follow these instructions:

1. Login to Gmail
2. Next to your email address in the upper right hand corner, click on the Options button, then select Mail Settings
3. On the General Settings tab, scroll down to the signature settings.
4. Type in your name, address and other contact information.
5. To add the Facebook Icon, click on the image button (looks like this Insert Facebook Icon in Google Signature Then copy and paste this image link into the Image URL Field: then click ok
6. Repeat this step for Twitter using this image link: (BTW – here is the link for Linkedin if you want it: )
7. Now that you have the images inserted, you need to hyperlink them. To do this, first click on the image you want to link to highlight it, then click on the hyperlink button (looks like this: create a hyperlink in Gmail Signature
8. After you click on the link, a dialog box will open. Copy and paste your Facebook or Twitter link into the Web Address field, then click ok.
9. Do this for all images in your signature.

Here is the video instruction set if you’d rather see it in person:

Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and save your changes. Then send yourself a test message (or send me one and we can verify that the links go to the right place!

We’ll post more image options in the near future so you can add in YouTube, Linkedin, etc.

Who Says Blogging is Dead?

With the prevalence of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, it may seem like blogs have become obsolete. Some publications advise amateur wordsmiths to not even bother creating a blog, claiming that adding anything to the already super-saturated blogosphere will inevitably become white noise.

The problem, however, lies not in the audience but in the uncommitted writer. Considering how easy it is to make a blog — most can be set up for free in less than five minutes — the blogging trend caught on with the masses very quickly and so many unattractive, uninteresting, and useless blogs were created that the numbers became inflated.

Those blogs whose writers have a specific purpose, especially blogging for business purposes, have been much more successful and met their purpose better than something like a kitten fan page, and for good reason. Because business blogs have a specific focus and an — admittedly smaller — but more interested and dedicated audience, they cannot be as accurately tracked with statistics as mass-appeal general topic blogs are. Generalized blogs have the advantage of appealing to a greater audience, but they are at a major disadvantage when it comes to keeping a reader’s attention long-term. They are also at a disadvantage in that they have no specific purpose, which often leads writers to stagnate and just stop posting.

It’s not blogging is dead, it’s that not everyone with access to a computer can write something worth reading. For these people the limited lengths and guaranteed audiences of social media is a better option. But this doesn’t make the blog useless or obsolete, and the numbers agree; according to a recent eMarketer study, 53.5 % of the online population in the U.S. (122.6 million people) read at least one blog every month.

In fact, most bloggers (up to 75%) believe that blogs are being taken more seriously as sources of information now than ever before and 74% of self-employed bloggers say that their blog has proven valuable for promoting their business. Commitment and longevity in blogging pays off, since 68% of successful bloggers have been posting for 2-6 years.

So then how, in a full-to-the-brim blog community can you make your blog successful? A business blog has the advantage of a specific purpose a continual stream of topics which will help to keep the blog fresh and thriving for as long as the business is, but only if it the writing is up to business standards.

  1. First and foremost you have to know your subject and audience, and gauge the content of your blog accordingly; a business blog is going to require more time and effort than most to be interesting and substantive, but the possible rewards vastly outstrip those of a blog about kittens.
  2. The next thing to focus on is the layout and design of your blog (but remember that writing quality needs to be your first priority). Because the blog is such a fluid medium, there’s no reason for yours to be boring or unattractive. A proper understanding of the CRAP principles can also work wonders. The challenge lies in finding a balance between readability, navigability, and attractiveness. A clear layout and a subject-based archive of past posts as well as the standard chronological one can be very effective.
  3. Also, highlighting new posts, either through including new posts in existing weekly newsletters, having a specific mailer just for blog updates, or using an outlet such as Google Reader will make it effortless for your readers to keep abreast of new posts and can increase readership dramatically.

Now that blogging has moved out of its infancy, things are changing; the blog format is established, audiences expect higher quality content, and readership is more specialized. But that’s no reason why a blog cannot be informative or successful, it just means we’ll have to try a bit harder.

The C.R.A.P. Principles

C.R.A.P. (terrible name, infinitely useful) is an initialism which stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The term was coined by Robin Williams (author of The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice) and has become a basic principle of design. Utilizing the C.R.A.P. principles allows even the most inexperienced amateur designers to avoid the dreaded wall of text and instead create dynamic and attractive web content.

The basics of the C.R.A.P. principles are:

Contrast – Elements that aren’t supposed to be the same should be very different. Making the only slightly different confuses the eye and causes the reader to see a relationship that doesn’t exist. Using differing elements on a page draws the eyes to appropriately grouped elements and allows for proper scanning.

Repetition – Continuing formatting and styles for the entire document to create and maintain a cohesive feel.

Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Clean lines create peace.

Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate elements should have enough space in between to be easily distinguishable. Never underestimate the use of white space.

For more information and examples, visit:

Long live email!

You may have heard that the use of email is shrinking due to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Add to that the deluge of spam or virus-infected emails floating around the net and the prediction starts to look promising. In addition, other technologies are gaining more and more ground such as skype, texting, and online calendar programs.

There are many reasons for the increased reliance on social media, including increased control over which messages you receive, the one-stop-shopping experience of an outlet which includes businesses, groups, clubs, and your entire social circle, and of course, let’s not underestimate the draw that an ever-changing platform like facebook can have for users simply for the sake of flashy new features.

So I have to ask, is email, once the height of information transfer technology, going the way of the pony express?

Email is by no means a perfect system; between spam (whether virus-infected or not), repetition or boringness of information in emails, and the sheer volume of messages that can accumulate when using a free instant digital medium for communication, lots of problems are likely to arise. Most internet-savvy users are able to control the settings of their email programs and personalize them so that they don’t encounter these issues, but for those who don’t know how or just can’t be bothered to do so, email can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.

One important thing to remember is that the trend of increasing reliance on social media is not, generally speaking, a trend among businesspeople. While some smaller businesses do exist solely on sites like facebook, the vast majority of businesses that have a facebook page also have a main website and the facebook is simply an extra outlet for users who choose to recieve information primarily that way.

Despite the longevity of these predictions, email is still winning out. A study by iModerate Research Technologies found that 86% of consumers who send information over the Internet do so primarily through email. Facebook and Twitter, however, are dragging behind with 49 and 4 percent respectively. One reason for this high number of emails may lie in the age of the users; consumers over 35 are overwhelmingly favoring email at 93% usage, while even among the most Facebook-savvy age group — 18-24 years — 70% of users are still preferring email.

One reason for the continuing dominance of email may be its usefulness in online marketing. 37 percent of shoppers prefer email as the delivery method of promotional offers with only 9 percent favoring social media, according to eMarketer. In fact, social media is dead last on the list with Mailers in second place at 23 percent followed by text messaging and in-store with 18 and 11 percent respectively.

While the numbers will likely continue to grow in the favor of social media as it continues to grow, the fact that email is still by far the dominant form of online information transfer suggests that it will remain so for a long time to come.

Useful tools for PC users

People often ask me what tools I use to make my life on a PC easier… well here is a list of some of my favs.

1. PixResizer ( easily allows you to resize one or multiple images. Please, please use this or to resize your images before you load them onto your website.

2. TweetDeck – I manage a few Twitter and FaceBook accounts and TweetDeck makes this simple from one interface

3. Pixie – ( ever wonder what the hex, RGB, or CMYK value of the color on your favorite website is? Well wonder no more, Pixie is a great little tool that will tell you the codes for any color on any website, document or image.

4. PowerPoint – I am a PowerPoint junkie. I don’t just use it for presentations, I use it to do rough schematics and rough mock-ups. I can do amazing things in PowerPoint. Many website designs have started with me and a client sitting down and mocking something up it PowerPoint. I am sure other web designers will laugh, but this works and my clients are happy.

5. I had been using GoTo Webinar for our online training sessions and have been relatively happy with them. They are somewhat pricey ($99/mo). My biggest complaint is that the recordings are not very high quality. I have posted many of them on the NSNA website and they are hard to read. I have been trying out Camtasia and for a couple quick responses to clients (see as an example) but I have not used it enough to make a full review. I’ll let you know.

6. We use IM (instant messenger) like crazy to communicate quickly. Call me lazy, but there are many times I will IM the CEO of our company even if he is sitting in the office right next to me. For me, I like having a written answer to my question. If gives me something to go back and read if I ever forget the answer (which I do a lot… prego brain). I still have two accounts, Yahoo and MSN, and use both messengers. I know there are tools that allow you to consolidate to one IM, but I like having both. Sue me.

7. CutePDF – again, PC users need a free way to make PDFs too. See my earlier post on how to do this.

8. – For me, I work much better with good tunes. Since I can’t hire DJ Maynard to spin in my office all day, I listen to Pandora.

What am I missing? What can’t you live/work without?