Webmasters Workbench   
Some people build websites and others build businesses. Which are you? JoCool, Co Founder of COOLCOM Digital Media, brings you the talk and information that helps you become and remain the person that builds businesses and helps you aim for success with each new launch. From software to marketing, there are tried and true methods that work as well as risks worth taking. 

Join JoCool for our weekly Sit down at the Workbench.
 

 

Setting up an online store can be one of the more arduous tasks, and for those with little to no experience using web tools, it can also be outright frustrating.

The danger, though, is getting in too deep using tools that are eventually found to be the wrong ones for ones needs.

This makes it dually important to try software FIRST that offers the most flexibility for the needs of your store. And that’s where my favorite software shines too.

Shopsite is a package I tried for the first time back in 2002. Yes. 2002.

The feature I loved the most was that I could either choose a template and load the Shopsite Admin Platform with my products and prices OR I could create buttons for products and just add them to my site.

For those who have a site they like that feature alone is a boon. While many love the neat and tidy appeal of using a template, some site owners just want to add a couple buttons to some books or other products without redoing everything.
There in lies the beauty of the choice.

As one example I have my demonstration store of cosmetics to show you.

JOCOOL.com is a site I created to display the advantages of using one’s own layout and design.

This site has had individual buttons added to it rather than a template filled in at the Admin area. And for this product it’s a unique design that sets it apart from all other cosmetic stores.

Now to be clear, this site was not made in Shopsite. I used a little plugin I found, and it was wonderful! But that plugin is now no longer supported, which leaves me having to think fast and make change quickly.

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Everyone that starts up a business online has spent hours looking for the right name.

Since the internet took hold, those hours spent name searching have also included plenty of domain searches (looking up available domains to go with the business). 

In fact, the name MP3 (music file) was chosen because the URL was available and it certainly isn't the only product maker that chose a name this way. 

But there are times when what's "available" for $12.00 or $15.00 will cost more in the longer term than what's for sale at a higher price. 

Here are some points to ponder; questions to ask when deciding which way to go for your business. 

  • Is your business one that is already in motion and the site you add NEEDS to be an instant "branded" arm of that business?
  • Is your concept one that can't afford to be overtaken by a site that has the advantage of branding, history and traffic?
  • Are you entering a business arena already inundated and need an edge?
  • Is your current online business one that gets great sales but limited traffic?

Each one of these statements are strong reasons why investing in a Premium Domain makes sense.

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A client recently purchased an entire online business, URL, Site and resulting income.

This reminded me of the importance of taking certain precautions and measures before and during such a transaction.

While in this case nothing went wrong, the potential for issues were a heaping pile of worry.

When buying a business, one of the most important things will be to ensure the keys are handed over at midnight and locks changed.

Even if the current management is to be retained for a transition period, that access can be added once all control is in the purchasers hands.

In this case a check for 20,000 was handed over and three weeks later the site and business are sitting on the original server with no access info handed to the purchaser. The URL is still in the name of the seller, and the seller is still running the business with the purchaser having NO idea as to what the income is or how, where, what will make it's way to him.

Again, the seller had no intention of making things difficult, and for that reason I was able to intervene and get these details sorted out as they should be. But what if the seller was less honorable? Having cashed that check leaves room for any number of underhanded maneuvers; even the possibility of outright refusal to change a darn thing.

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So you found a place that has the best SEO Gurus and Google Wizards. They're expensive, but you're gonna be number one! I hate to be a buzz kill, but ...Not so much...

That companies make money on promising top spot in google is easily the most disappointing reality of the dedicated SEO professional.

Why?

The answer is both simple and complex.

The simple answer it that it can’t be promised. There are no gurus; no secrets and no secret sauces.

Over confident displays of uber-knowledge are lures designed to fool honest website owners into agreements that simply can not be backed up, but CAN be enforced to their agreed upon term, usually with long term low OR short term high monthly fees and no reference to success. 

Here is Googles own take on that.

"No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever." (see their fulll article here)

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In my line of work there is a lot of logging in going on. With over 260 sites saved to my list (real number; not exaggerating ;) of those needing a login, you can imagine there is no hope at all in trying to remember these all.

I know this is a common issue; even having a total of 7 or 8 can break one’s spirit when the info gets lost. 

The average person’s login list includes at least 2/3 of this list.

• Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail
• Computer Mail Software 
• Bank Management
• Domain Management
• ITunes or Google Play
• Amazon and eBay
• Skype, YouTube
• Facebook, Linked in and Twitter
• Firefox or Chrome
• Travel or Hotel site
• PayPal, Loyalty Club 
• Wordpress or other Site Admin

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If you gave Facebook your phone number .. this may be the only accurate and sellable info they have.

I took a quick poll of my 300 or so Facebook friends, looking at their profiles and in some cases asking for clarification.

- Many profiles say they went to the “school of hard knocks”
- Many say they work for “facebook” or haven't updated the info
- Who didn’t lie about their age when joining?
- Many click LIKE on almost everything they see 
- Many do post what cities they have visited in the past
- The city lived in is commonly public but isn't a privacy point
- Most enter their relationship status


Interestingly much of the info is outright false; the info you gave to Facebook or Twitter or Linked in is not vetted. Facebook data is unreliable at best. You can even mislead that data by LIKING things you hate and following people you can't stand (something many do so they can stay apprised of policy or other news items regardless of how they feel about the issue).

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Free mail, even business level accounts at these suppliers was once a fabulous go-to for the guy who wants email but doesn't have a URL or hosted account to work with.

Some hosting companies even push you to email suppliers such as Outlook by offering a free year (there's good money in it for them, especially when you renew next year at hefty rates).

But did we really think this free stuff is out of the goodness of the hearts of conglomerates or have we recently learned something valuable from the Facebook scandal and other surfacing information about how it all works?

Some of the top pitfalls of free and conglomerate managed mail

  1. Mail is misfiltered and misfiled
  2. Mail is denied
  3. Personal info is collected and sold
  4. Next years fee is freaky
  5. No support
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With both Google and The Chrome Browser now taking serious issue with sites not using SSL, site owners tell stories of losing traffic and SEO ranking due to these security measure policies.

"There is a significant change in the way it displays websites that are not using HTTPS, also known as SSL. This change may confuse your site visitors or surprise you if you are not expecting it," explains the article at Google.

In short, Google brands a site NOT SECURE, and will rank it lower on the Google Search unless SSL is in place.

Relax, if you already host at COOLCOM you're covered.

For sites hosting at COOLCOM SSL is free; it's included with all hosting accounts. No matter what kind of site or email you host your SSL certificate is already installed and working. Your site is secure.

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At COOLCOM group we hear the term "My IT" more than any other throughout the day at the Help Desk.

But as situations pan out, we find the "IT" most often referred to is the person currently assisting with a website or setting up an email account on a device or computer. 

Technically speaking, am IT looks after hardware in large networks. To your left is an example of what an IT Guy looks like in his own habitat. 

So, what are all these in between people then? Usually they are webmasters; often highly skilled. But to allow a merging of the terms opens the door for a lot of grief, developing an expectation of a Webmaster that is not realistic. 

Over time we migrated the term to Internet Tech, which has it's own skill set.

So let’s look at the skills required of an Internet Tech when hired by COOLCOM or any other firm with high standards for their internal client technical support services. 

  • A full understanding of how domains work
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Sure, you have a nice simple site, you sell a book or a few bottles of vitamins. Nothing big, no monster site that should cost anyone a fortune to host.

But wait.. that site just got turned off? W.T.F.????

These are interesting times for designers. Tools like Wordpress make it much easier to create a relevant site with less effort than ten years ago.

But at what cost? Really? Must EVERY avenue paving the pursuit of simple... bring with it a cost?

Godaddy, 1 on 1, Hostgator and several other hosting firms have now posted “Blacklisted Wordpress Plugins” lists with varying degrees of reprimand. Lists of comments from angry clients are tethered to notices of their crimes committed and usually the site owner had NO IDEA they had done wrong.

Peppered among the other complaints are a number of arbitrary shutdowns. In the case of HostGator also complaints about being forced to buy "SiteLock" as what is described as a punitive measure. 

I would love to say GoDaddy is mean, but the truth is they’re right. Sure a bit too arbitrary for our liking, and I can't say what happened with Hostgator there, but turning off one site with bad or hacked software saves 100s from downtime. 

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If your site opens with a HUGE flower, a lovely hill of daisies, a massive building; you'd better be offering flowers, hills of daisies or big buildings because it's this impression; the Store Window, on which people ponder entry.  

Any retail store will confirm the front window display is what sets the tone for the rest of the clients visit; it tells customers before they even see the rest of the store - what’s on sale, what’s new and why you should go in.

Now, before we move on, take a short moment to check out your website visitor stats. At Coolcom, those are right in your cPanel. 

Is your home page getting 99.0% of all traffic and not much going onward to other pages of your website after that? If so, it’s time to rethink your presentation; your display window. 

The most common reason for loss of good traffic at the home page, is that the “store window” isn’t telling anyone what’s new, what’s on sale or what’s going on in that site. People have little patience when the next site is but a Google click away.

The main offender? Template slotting.

There is an all too common use of giant huge massive pictures that have little to tell the visitor, followed by three smaller pictures below it, squares that get filled in because they’re in the template.

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The Pied Piper was famous for his ability to lead children, en masse, by giving them something notable to follow.

If the Pied Piper was around today he'd be "that guy" - the Social Media wiz sought after by every retail and service based corporation eager to harness the power of Social Media platforms.

The Pied Piper knew something we all want to know. 

Facebook is said (and for good reason) to be the online answer to word of mouth, but without cause to listen most words fall on deaf ears. This skill of leading through enticement, assembling via offer; it has been all but lost on Social Media and yet it’s the fundamental aspect to achieving any kind of measurable success.

Do you recognize these phrases?

“Follow us on Facebook”
“Follow us on Twitter”
“Like us on Facebook”

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It’s always a wonderful start; a time of excitement and simpatico, of dreams and promises. But as with marriage, the relationship at times can become a frustrating parting of ways later.

At the COOLCOM group we’ve had almost 20 years to watch relationships both flourish and flounder. Over those years we’ve learned a few things about both sides of the coin.

A few questions at the outset amount to what is a great prenup for the marriage as it moves forward.

Of the divorces between business and webmaster the most common factor is a misunderstanding of services paid for or services intended to be included.

Webmasters need to be clear on your entire scope of expectation and you need to be clear on how much of that your project quote will include. Clarification helps both sides avoid conflict, hard feelings and on occasion pandemonium that occurs when the relationship hits the rocks.

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If you have a thriving website that looks great and does the job intended, then you likely had a relatively long road behind you. These questions give you the very information that will keep your head above water should anything go wrong with that website; they are the questions all site owners should ask and answers all webmasters should be prepared to give. 

1. Where is my site backup?
Most sites are made using CMS (content management) software. Joomla and Wordpress (most common) have many free backup options; Akeeba comes to mind. And an html site can be outright copied to a folder, then downloaded. Make sure you have a backup copy on your own computer and know what was used to make the backup. Write it all down. Never assume this is free though, if a backup system was not discussed then you may be required to pay an added fee. 

2. What software is my site made with?
This is helpful to know; you may one day find you need help beyond your webmaster. While that help will no doubt be able to figure this out, time is often of the essence when this topic comes up. Get to know your site specs before you are asked in a tense moment. This is your business; make sure you are fully informed.

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Should I Click and Build?

Back in the early days of COOLCOM we used a third-party contact system that was pretty darn stellar. We love it. It kept names and addresses for us, it kept notes and it let us schedule calls and contacts. But as years progressed this software became more and more expensive. What started out at 49.95 per month mushroomed into a $2000.00+ annual monkey on our backs.

We caught it fairly early; we managed to move to our own system over a period of six months and left the third-party system behind for good.

This is the same danger posed by all such systems be they accounting, website building, contact management or scheduling. If there is a chance you might grow, become successful and rely on your site then there is a super chance a system like this will bite you in the ass.

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Wordpress and Joomla CMS

Joomla and Wordpress are by far the most common and popular website building tools today, and most webmasters, including our own, will recommend one of the two for yours.

How can you choose between the two?

is that you investigate the two thoroughly. Avoid media hype as that is driven by the developers. And your webmaster likely only knows how to use one of the two, but this does not mean it's best for your site and business in the end. 

Wordpress is Blogging Software first and Website Software Second.

Wordpress is great for the person who wants to keep it simple yet keep it pretty. Once your webmaster has set things up it's rather easy for you to add update the blog. You can add static pages (About us, Contact) but these are not quite as simple as the blogging aspect as this is where WordPress works around itself. None the less it's overall use is quite simple and by using a template you can really improve the bumps in the road. 

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When CMS Costs Too Much

Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal these types of software were designed to let the site owner make updates to what can be very complex websites. without dependency on webmasters - and that has opened up a world of possibilities that just never were there before.

So what’s the problem?

Security, that’s what.

All Content Management Software is under fire. 100s of attempts per day are made on your site, not because they want your info, but because they will use core Wordpress or Joomla features to send out spam (or inject phishing pages that will be used in spam).

This is going to affect any site at some point that has not followed the rules of the day. Given that here is a brief list of rules that will help you avoid being that guy.

1. Update!

It’s been called a hassle. But not updating will be the cause of the ultimate grief. Software developers send out updates to your software to bring you new features or plug a vulnerability. When it’s the latter, waiting even a day is all the hacker needs to find you.

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SEO and Your Google Rank

Ranking well in Google can be a mystery, after all they update their own algorithms and criteria almost monthly. It’s important to stay on top of things; what they found to be of great value in your site three years ago may very well be holding you back today. Here are some tips from our own SEO Team.

1. How content is written matters to Google.

Using an algorithm that is updated often, Google looks for natural speech patterns. Repeating words because you want them noticed will have the opposite effect when Google spiders your site. Instead take your time to write well thought out, unique content for each paragraph (and page) that will focus clearly on your product or service.

2. Google likes websites more than webpages.

Google prefers three or more pages; a single page will not be ignored, but sites that contain more will outrank it. This is because Google tries to dish up the sites that offer the most content for your search. Independent landing pages are more relevant when advertising. Google loves to see a good independent landing page when you use their Adwords services and while this may seem odd (you are paying for the ad) in reality Google still wants to show well thought out content.

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Is saving money the same as making money?


Meet Bob.

Bob has an incredible online business idea he is trying to get off the ground. It's a great service at an amazing price, there is just no question this should be a successful business.

Bob doesn't know much about computers though, and he saw this as a drawback. So he looked around to find someone that had a handle on the subject. Bob asked around and heard that Jake is a wiz on computers, and Bob is sure this is just what he needs to get things moving! Bob went ahead and hired him to be the new webmaster for his great idea.

Meet Jake.

Jake is Bob’s webmaster. Jake has built a bang up website for Bob. Jake also handled registering the Domain Name and finding a place to host this new business website. Jake chose a popular shop online to get this all done (afterall he sees ads all the time for them, they must be good because they seem to be really big).

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SSL More Secure than Waiters

Have you avoided purchasing items online out of fear of identity theft and credit card fraud?

According to a 2010 report from the US Better Business Bureau, online identity theft is less severe, is quicker to be detected, and on most occasions the amount of financial damage to the victim of offline identity theft is greater.

Last year only 15% of all credit card fraud was directly attributable to online activity. It’s time to take your head out of the sand.

While the media loves to take any sensational grave and rob it, this is one that has a lot of facts and a touch of reality checking that needs to be applied. In short, 128 bit encryption is FAR more secure than the kid you hand your card to when out for eats.

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Now I Wanted Their Money

The other day, I got an advertisement encouraging me to revisit an account I once created at Freshbooks. It was a pretty attractive invite too, nice looking and offered good visual incentive to get back with their program. This ad, and its distribution, was obviously costly.

I logged into the derelict account and took a look around. Much had improved and it was motivating me to click that upgrade button. Eventually I just had to review pricing, I was damn near sold and needed very little to push me to go ahead.

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Social Site Privacy Reality

Privacy when found in the same sentence as Policy... 

That the word Privacy is used in a policy does not mean you have any; it only outlines what little you can expect in return for giving out your Name, Age, Marital Status, what you like, what you eat, drink, what you watch and what you wear, what banks and other institutions you “like”… and relieves Social Sites of responsibility when they sell the info to advertisers relabeled as demographics.

To believe you have privacy in Social Sites is to believe you can stand naked on the street, asking passers by not to peek.. while taking pictures of yourself and passing them out to “only your 386 carefully selected friends” and then asking them not to pass those shots around to anyone (cept the other 385 of your “carefully selected friends”… and depending on THEIR settings.. their 392 carefully selected friends).

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I Thought GMail Couldn't ...

For over a year now mail has been getting lost to the ALL MAIL folder.. the folder we never asked for but got anyway. Buried in there are most of the important messages that GMail thought better placed than my InBox.

Did we ever imagine they could make matters worse?

Enter.. threads.

Your mail, should you choose to continue to us it at GMail, is now threaded with no setting to undo that. Threading is based on the subject line, and to some master mind out there this seemed like a good idea to make mandatory.

It's the idea from hell for most of us.

Recently a client asked why they are not receiving their email money transfer notices. Now that the mail is only forwarding to GMail from the COOLCOM Premium server means .. really we have little to do with the issue. It's really between the bank and gmail. However, most customers also know they will never reach any support from either, but we are very approachable and want to help.

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