Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Facebook Privacy and Small Business

Facebook has been accused of playing fast and loose with personal information for years. This year however, they have been audited by an Irish Data Protection
watchdog and they have agreed to improve 12 areas of privacy - some of which should be of significant interest to businesses that want to tie into the Facebook family of apps and advertising but who might be concerned with giving Facebook too much information.

Read the news article by Charlie Osbourne!

Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All About Images on the Web

One of the more complex issues for people who manage the content for websites is making sure that images are sized appropriately but still high quality for the user experience. This post will be a step-by-step guide for using a free image optimizer tool to do just that - and we'll also give you some rules of thumb for thinking about images on websites.

File Types for Web

PNG - this is a great file type for web - especially for transparent files and this is the file type best used if your page may be linked to by a social media site like Facebook - because it is only the PNG file types that are available within Facebook to display next to the link. (To the left is an example of 2 images placed on a page that has a colored background. Notice how the first is transparent and the second is not.)

JPG (JPEG) - these are great file types for photos as they can be saved with good quality at reasonable sizes. These cannot be transparent.

GIF - GIF is similar to PNG, but is an older file type. They can be transparent, but the PNGs can be made smaller. GIFs were very popular at one time for creating animated logos and images. This practice has fallen out of popularity as web users have become more savvy and the trend has moved towards simpler (or less annoying) designs.

File Size versus Screen Size

File size matters when putting images online. The larger the actual file, the longer it takes to load on the page. It doesn't matter if the screen size is tiny - if the file is large it is slow.

Screen size matters - but it is more a question of design. You want to use the size images that look good on a page - that do not 'take over' your content and that bring attention to things on your page and break up the text in a way that 'feels good'. Notice that these are not precise. Designing your content on a page is an art, not a science.

Rules of Thumb for File Sizes:

Image Size (approx screen size)
Max File Size
ICONS - XSM (5-15 pixels wide)
SMALL (15-80 pixels wide)
MEDIUM (80-250 pixels wide)
LARGE (250-500 pixels wide
XLG (only used for banners, large background images, etc.

Images need to be saved for web - which is a process that compacts the image and reduces the quality but in a way that still is good for web viewing. We recommend a simple and free program called RIOT to do this.

You can download RIOT here! (Click the bar at the very top of the screen that says 'Download RIOT standalone application', not the big blue bar that says 'Download')

Then, follow our step by step guide below to convert a single image from a large photo to a web ready PNG or JPG or to convert a batch of images all at the same time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Put Your Business On the Map! It's Easy!!!

Listing your business on Google Maps is an integral part of your marketing plan, and luckily, it is very simple and easy. If you haven't done so already, take a few minutes and get on it! Your business will thank you!

Listing does require having a Google account, and if you aren't already set up for one, the process will only take a few minutes
1.      Navigate to, and sign in with your Google account if needed.
2.      A screen will appear asking for your business phone number to check if Google Maps already has information about your business
3.      If there happens to be a listing, make sure all of the information is correct. If it is not, you may edit anything at this time.
4.      If there is no information, you will arrive at a page for you to fill in all of the requisite information for your business. You will also be asked to answer a few questions about your business such as do you provide services to customer's locations, your hours of operation, and any options that you offer for payment. You can then add up to 10 photos of your storefront, products, or inside the business. Make sure all of your photos are clearly representative of your business, products, or services. In addition to photos, you can add up to 5 videos through YouTube. The same rules apply to videos as with photos; Make sure the videos are relevant! At the bottom, space is provided to add in any additional details about your business such as parking or brand offered.
5.      Once you submit, you must wait for a confirmation to be sent to you through the mail. When you receive it, you must open it up to get a PIN number to complete the listing. This is Google's way of verifying that you exist at your address, and it is required to have your business listed.
6.      Do a quick once-over to make sure your information is correct, and just like that, your business is listed on Google Places! You can even highlight promotions you may have going on, or respond to review from customer

Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Small Biz Professionalism: Email on Your Domain

Have you ever been handed a business card from someone where you could tell that they spent a good amount of time and money creating a sharp card - the logo looks fantastic and it ties to the product or service the company offers and they have a great URL or web site address --- only to look down at the contact information and have this be what you see:

When this happens, I always get nervous.  I wonder:

  • how long the person has been in business?
  • do they actually own the business or are they are just a rep?
  • what other parts of their business are they not paying attention to?
  • can I really expect a quality solution or product?

It is EASY to have your business email use your business web domain!  Below are some quick steps (using Gmail) that will have you be able to set it up:
  1. Create a forwarding address on your domain such that '' is forwarded to your Gmail account. - this can either be done by you if you manage your domain with the registrar, or if you have a webmaster, you can ask them to do it.  That handles the emails that are sent to you.
  2. In your Gmail, go to your Mail Settings and select Accounts
  3. Select the button 'Send Mail from another address' and add the email address you had created in step 1. 
  4. Check your gmail account for a new message to confirm you can receive messages with this address in your Gmail.
  5. Select the setting below that to always 'reply from the same address the message was sent to'
  6. Go back to the General Setttings Tab and create your business signature - so that you always have your contact data including your name, company name, phone, email and links to your website and any social media platform you use.
It is that easy!  I've never been a big fan of ISP email addresses, so I don't have the details on how to do this on all the other email platforms - some may support it and some may not - but Gmail is free - so you can do this today using these simple steps. 

Stay tuned for more blog posts in the Small Biz Professionalism series!  

Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quick & Easy Audio Podcasting

If you think reaching customers through video and audio is only for big companies with expensive budgets, think again! With the recent developments in technology and world-wide access to broadband, it’s easy to share all kinds of digital media with your customers. And one of the best ways to get started is by creating an audio podcast.
An audio podcast is simply a sound recording that you “broadcast” using the internet. It doesn't take much to get your own podcast up and running – mostly just time, consistency, and great ideas – but it does require some additional equipment. The good news is, there are only three things you really need to get started:
  1. A microphone that plugs into your computer,
  2. A sound recording and editing software package, and  
  3. A way to distribute your podcasts, such as your website or blog.
Now, for a few more details:
  • Don’t get too wrapped up in choosing a microphone – even relatively inexpensive microphones can work very well for beginner podcasters. And if your computer doesn’t have a microphone jack built-in, you can buy a USB microphone that will plug directly into your computer’s USB port.
  • Using the right sound editing software is the key to making your recordings sound great. But again, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. In fact, one of the most popular tools for sound recording and editing is called Audacity, and you can download it for free!
  • Once you complete your podcast, you can upload the audio files to your website. Your customers can then listen to your podcast right from your website, or they can download your files and listen to them at their convenience on a portable MP3 player or iPod. It’s this kind of powerful flexibility that can make podcasting an important part of your Internet Plan!
Helpful Hint! JoyaTech makes sharing your audio ideas even easier by offering a custom audio player that can be built into any of their websites. You never knew your business could sound so great!

Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dive Into Email Marketing with these Suggested Vendors

So, you have decided that you might want to include email marketing as part of your web strategy, or that you just want to know more—well we are here to lend some insight!

Email marketing services can be an effective way to get the word out about your company, and can turn what may be a daunting task into something efficiently manageable.  It's important to ensure at the very outset of evaluating email marketing tools that the services meet the legislated standards for spam.  This means the service should have automatic opt-out for people on your lists and opt-in is considered even better, otherwise you run the risk of having your messages reported as spam and thus your email blacklisted.  All of the services we discuss below comply with these standards.

Vertical Response is a great option for small businesses who send few messages out, but want a full featured solution.  What sets them apart from many others is that they offer the option to pay per email sent—ensuring that you only pay for what you use.  Additionally, they make it simple to integrate with different social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and Vertical Response offers the ability to produce an opt-in form that you can easily embed on your website or blog, making it easy for interested parties to sign up for your communications.

iContact offers a wide variety of features and options for creating and tracking a successful email marketing campaign.  Similar to Vertical Response, Icontact offers the ability to easily create sign-up forms that you can embed on your website.  It is very user-friendly, and they offer great support by phone, email, or live chat if you happen to have some questions. iTheir impressive collection of over 500 template options ensures that your campaign will maintain the appearance of your brand.  All in all, iContact offers plentiful features and comprehensive support.

Pinpointe is designed specifically for people who focus on Business to Business (B2B) customers. It has a unique set of tools that can help you design a powerful email marketing campaign. The monthly price is $29—much higher than many other management tools. But with features such as surveys, embeddable opt-in forms for your site, behavioral targeting based on recipients click history, and easy to edit templates, you can quickly have a professional B2B email marketing campaign ready to blast out to the masses!

As with many things, there are a plethora of email marketing management tools out there.  Our list here is really just a starting point for you so that you can research these vendors and others like them to ensure you select the product and service that most effectively can help you reach your business objectives.   If you are on the hunt for a new Email Marketing vendor, first create a list of the 'must-have' features and identify your criteria for selection  - such as price, so that when you heading into the research phase you are armed with the knowledge to speak with vendors and understand their answers.
Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Clarity about Hosting and the Cloud

Are you confused by the concept of Internet hosting?  You are not alone!  What exactly do vendors mean when they talk about hosting?  Is it: Hosting your Domain Name, registering your Domain Name,  hosting your website, hosting an interactive application, are you paying for access to a service, or is it a combination of all of these things? And what exactly do they mean by 'the cloud'.  Is all hosting cloud computing just because it is on the Internet?   It's not surprising that many people are confused by this - beyond the obvious issue that these are often very technical distinctions, it gets even muddier because of all the ways that different vendors and services will offer their products in the market.

In this article, we'll break down some of the various types of Internet Hosting and try to define them in simple terms so that when you go looking for what you need, you know exactly how to ask questions of vendors and understand the answers they give you.  The first thing you want to understand is that there is a big difference between registering a domain and buying web hosting.

Domain Names - this is the name that you select as your name on the web.  It is used for your website address (URL) and it should also be used for your professional email address.  Typically, you pay an annual fee to register a domain name (between $8 and $15) and this is paid to a company called a Domain Registrar.  Some examples of these are Enom or GoDaddy.

Web Hosting - this is perhaps the most generic term we will discuss and the service is offered in hundreds of different ways by vendors.  In the simplest form it really is just space on a computer that is allocated to you where you can upload website content (html pages, images, etc.).

You can find web hosting that runs from $3 per month to over $1000 per month.  What makes things so complex is understanding what you need for your site.  One of the most confusing issues is that most vendors who register domain names also bundle other services in and sometimes those services will be what you need - but often they are not.  If you want to secure your domain name, but you don't know what you need yet in terms of your web presence, I recommend that you find a registrar that will just charge you the annual fee for the domain and avoid getting into a monthly fee contract.   If you are still trying to determine what you need in a website - you can use The Internet Plan - and create your web strategy.

Interactive Websites and Hosting - If you need an interactive website, including Content Management Systems, Blogs, or Ecommerce then the hosting you will need will be very specific to the technology used for your site.  Typically for those sorts of services, you'll want your website provider to either include hosting in the package or to tell you what kind of hosting you require.  For instance, if your site is a Wordpress site, you would need web hosting that supports the Wordpress application - and sometimes it is more complex because there can be different versions of the technology.

SAAS (Software as a Service) - All services, websites and tools that are available on the Internet are hosted on servers.  Whether or not you have to pay for the hosting directly depends on the business model of the company.  For example,  Blogger is a blog tool that is owned by Google.  You can set up a blog using that tool and the hosting is not separated from the service.  Essentially, you are getting the service including the hosting for free - at least for now.  Other examples where the service and hosting is integrated is with Intuit's website offering as well as with JoyaTech's websites.  With these two, you are paying for either the do-it-yourself tools to be able to design your own site or you are paying for the design and setup of a site and then you pay a monthly fee for hosting and upkeep of the software.

Virtual Dedicated Servers, Dedicated Hosting, and Managed Hosting - These three different types of hosting are typically for companies who have large, complex or custom built interactive websites that need very specific tools to work.  They usually cost upwards of $50 to $500 depending on what you need and unless you are the webmaster for a company who has an application or complex website you probably will not need this sort of service.  A great way to learn more about these terms is to look them up on Wikipedia.

For most consumers the concept of 'cloud computing' is typically irrelevant.  It more refers to how an application or data is configured on one or more servers on the Internet.  Probably the only clear benefit to a consumer is that the service may be more reliable if it is running on many different computers versus running on only one.  However, the way the term has been used to market products and services on the Internet, you cannot usually tell if that is the case.  My recommendation is to look instead to reviews of the service, guarantees of up-time and clear procedures for backup and restore of any data or applications that you are paying to use or host with a vendor.

Mary Camacho is the author of The Internet Plan. Buy the book here!