What is Net Neutrality & Why Website Owners Should Care

Whether you are just starting a new website for the first time, or you’ve been publishing content online for years, you’ve likely heard a little bit about net neutrality. Most people, however, aren’t really sure what it is or how it could affect you and your website.

As website owners, it is very important to take a little bit of time to understand the pros & cons of net neutrality, and try to keep up on any possible changes in this area of law.

Neutrality

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that data on the internet should all be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), no matter where it is coming from or where it is going.  Proponents of net neutrality want laws put in place that say that these ISPs can’t discriminate based on the type of data, even if some customers pay for faster service. The worry is that large companies like Google (YouTube) and Netflix could pay for priority service.  If put in place, this would effectively slow down the speed at which traffic is processed for smaller sites.

Currently there is no law that requires that ISPs or other telephone companies transmit all the data equally.  Despite this fact, however, there has only been one example of an ISP slowing down certain types of data.  This occurred when Comcast slowed down, or throttled, the traffic that was used in peer-to-peer sharing services for certain customers.  They did this because these services are primarily used by those who are downloading illegal music and movies, and they take up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth.

Benefits of Net Neutrality

Even proponents of net neutrality agree that putting new laws in place to prevent ISPs from throttling traffic, or providing priority service to certain companies is a preventative step.  The main benefits of having net neutrality laws on the books would be that it will provide a certainty to companies and individuals that have an online presence that the ISPs won’t begin charging extra for getting traffic.

The internet has grown and developed at such a remarkable rate because, in part, of the fact that website owners could count on the fact that people could easily get to their site without a problem.  If ISPs begin ‘playing favorites’ it will be more difficult for new websites to develop, which will stifle innovation.

Disadvantages of Net Neutrality

There are many people who are against putting net neutrality laws on the books too.  Some of the problems associated with these types of laws include the following:

  • Prioritizing Traffic is Necessary – Some argue that when there is a surge of traffic, ISPs must pick and choose what gets processed first in order to keep critical services running.
  • Large Data Users Using Bulk of Traffic – Currently everyone is getting the same priority of service.  A company like YouTube or NetFlix doesn’t have to pay any more than a small website.  This necessarily means that smaller companies end up paying more than their fair share.
  • Solution without a Problem – Another common complaint by opponents of net neutrality is that it is a solution to a problem that does not exist (yet).

Why should Small & Medium Sized Website owners Care?

Net neutrality is a fairly complex issue with passionate people on both sides.  For many website owners, it seems like something that won’t directly impact them in any significant way.  In reality, however, changes to net neutrality laws could have major impacts in how site owners manage their sites.

If ISPs begin to charge for priority service, it you may experience some of the following issues:

  • SEO Concerns – If your site begins to run slowly or even stop responding from time to time, it could have a negative impact on your site’s rankings in Google.
  • Higher Fees – Currently most websites don’t have to directly pay ISPs for their traffic to be processed.  This is because hosting providers, like InterServer, pay these costs.  If the ISPs start charging for priority service, however, the individual website owners will likely have to pay higher costs each month.
  • Additional Technical Concerns – Thanks to webhosting services and easy to use software, it no longer takes a tech wiz to make a website.  If site owners need to start worrying about how their web traffic is being processed, it will require a certain level of technical knowledge to track properly.
  • Outbid – The reality is that if ISPs allow companies to pay for priority service, nobody will be able to outbid the major players like Google, Facebook, NetFlix and Amazon.  They could effectively make it so only their sites would load with any reliability.

Following the legal trends regarding net neutrality is something that all website owners should be doing.  Whether you are for these types of laws or against them, the reality is that they will have a bigger impact on the life of website owners than most others.  This means you should take the responsibility to keep up to date with the news, and contact legislators when necessary to let them know what you want in this very important matter.

Make Site Changes Easier by Editing within phpMyAdmin

Many people use CMS systems such as WordPress, which store data in sql tables within a database. This is also true of ecommerce solutions which consist of WordPress plugins, and for other systems such as Joomla and Magenta. If you have a store which is part of a blog site then typically the data for an ecommerce plugin will be in a separate database from that which contains the blog.

There are a number of problems that can be eliminated by editing data directly in the database using phpMyAdmin.

1)   You can add information even when it won’t normally ‘stick’. A short while ago I was trying to add products to a site that already had a lot of them and was running on a slow host. (If you need a fast host try Internetserver). To compound the problem I was on my laptop, working over a Wi-Fi connection.

The data I entered just would not save no matter what I tried; the connections just kept timing out. I went to phpMyAdmin, copied some rows from the product table and edited the names, prices, and descriptions to make new products, and the problem totally disappeared.

2)   You can add a lot of information in less time. Sometimes the interfaces in various ecommerce solutions are great for small stores that are only selling twenty products but are slow when you are adding hundreds or even thousands of products.

3)   Occasionally there are glitches in the plugin interfaces, so that you can’t enter all the data on a particular device without continually changing your font size and scrolling all over the place. As we use more different kinds of phones, tablets and browsers, it becomes hard for the developers to take all of our needs into account, and I have seen this glitch even with one of the most highly rated WordPress content protection plugins. You can get around this by using phpMyAdmin to make your changes directly in the database.

4)   If you become proficient enough you will be able to write sql queries to make many changes at a time, such as increasing all your prices by 10%. Here is an example.

Tip: Keep in mind that in phpMyAdmin you can drag columns next to each other to make things easier. For example drag a column with the prices you are changing right next to the column with the product names.

If you are unfamiliar with phpMyAdmin, I suggest you install a copy of WordPress on your site with a test blog on it. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with phpMyAdmin without having to be constantly in fear that you will mess up your main site. There is one important difference between editing within a CMS such as WordPress and editing directly in the database – there is no undo! That’s right once you save a change to your database you can’t just restore the table by pressing CTRL-z or CMD-z. You can only fix the problem by importing a backup of the table or by importing a backup of the whole database.

Now that you have your test blog in place, let’s get started:

First, build a few posts with some unique text within your blog. Let’s make three posts that all have the text “Sam jumped on the elephant.”  Go ahead and publish the posts.

Now that we have our 3 posts we want to backup our database. The reason for backing up our database even though this is just a test blog is to get in the habit of doing so. With a full backup of your database and an additional backup of the tables you are working in, it is much easier to fix your mistakes. Go to your cpanel and look in the databases section for phpMyAdmin.

 myphpadmin

When you open myPhpAdmin you will see a list of all your databases

 myphpadmin

I happen to know that the database for my test blog is wrdp11, so I will select that database in the list on the left.

You can see now why the next time you add an installation of a cms like WordPress or Drupal, it would be a good idea to give the database a name that you will remember so you can find the correct one. You might even think that it would be a good idea to rename all your present databases with more memorable names. You could do that but there are all kinds of pitfalls. An easier way is to browse through the data of each database until you can figure out what it is being used for and then compile a list or a small spreadsheet.

Click on export at the top. You can just leave the default settings of quick and sql. Click go and save the file.

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Now let’s save one of the tables. Select the wp_posts table on from the list on the left. (later when we search you will see that this is the table that contains our 3 posts containing the word ‘elephant’).  Again select export, click ‘go’ and save the file.

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Now let’s search for our text and replace it. I’m going to look for the phrase ‘Matt jumped on an elephant’ and replace it with ‘Matt Jumped on a trampoline’.  With the name of your database (in this case _wrdp11) selected go up top and click on ‘Search’. Type in the search phrase, change the setting to ‘the exact phrase’ and click ‘select all’ to search all the tables. If you don’t see any results use ‘all the words’ instead of ‘exact phrase’.  (This will often find things that you can’t match with exact phrase due to spacing problems.)

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I see 3 matches inside the wp_posts table.

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Click on ‘browse’ next to the listings. Now look in the ‘post_content ‘ column, click on the content in each row, change it and then click on something in another  cell within the table to save your change.

Although this method works for making a few changes, what if you had thousands of them – for example if you were changing all the prices on your store? We can make a lot of changes at once by clicking on ‘Query’ and entering the following:

update wp_posts set post_content = replace(post_content,’Matt jumped on an trampoline’,’Matt  jumped on  a large trampoline. ‘);

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We just changed each occurrence of  ‘trampoline’ to ‘large trampoline’.

Click Submit Query and look up top. You will either see a green bar telling you how many rows were changed or a message that we have made an error in the query. Let’s look at the syntax.  update always stays the same, the database is the one that we have selected so we don’t need to include it in the query, wp_posts  is the name of the table, set does not change, post_content is the name of the column, it is followed by the old text and the new text.

There are two drawbacks to this method.

1) You must know the table and column that contains the data before you can write the query.

2.) You cannot make any spelling mistakes.

For these reasons it is often easier to search and replace manually if you only have to change a few pieces of data.

Tip: If you are trying to write a query that will increase all your prices by a certain percentage, then look at the example link above under 4).

In this next example we are going to look at a WordPress content protection system called Digital Access Pass which allows sites to sell content by protecting posts and files, so that only people who purchased access can see them. This plugin also allows you to build emails, choose one of them and deliver them on a specific day to people who purchased a particular product. The interface works fine on most computers but for some reason on my laptop I can’t drag the box that says ‘click and drag me’ and which controls the day a message is released. Although I could figure out in which table most of the data is stored by browsing through the table names, I had no clue how to specify which emails the purchasers of each product receive and which day they are sent on.

I’m going to build a short message and add it to one of the test products.

(The window that says ‘click and hold to drag’ will not drag on my laptop but I can view it by making the font display in my browser very small.)

As a first step I create the email then I add it to a single product and give it a day of delivery of 299. Because I know the pricing structure and the other numbers in the site, I’m confident that my search will only find one or two occurrences of that number. If I get more then I will go back, change the number and then search for the new number.

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A search reveals that there is only 1 occurrence of the number 299.

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By clicking on ‘browse’ next to the match we can see the content of the other columns in the table for our match and figure out what to change. In this case we would change the product ids in order to add the email to other products, the start date to change the mailing day and the display order as needed.

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If we click on Copy (under Options, in blue towards the middle of the page) a page opens up that will allow us to make all our changes.

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When you are done making changes click ‘go’ at the bottom of the page and the new, modified copy of this table row will be added to the database.

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Let’s recap what I did here so that you can do the same thing with other ecommerce plugins or with other content management systems like Joomla or Magenta.

1) I entered some data that I believed to be unique by using the interface provided with the plugin software.

2) I searched for the data using a global database search. If I came up with too many matches I would re-enter a different value and search on that instead

3) Once that I know where the data is I can copy that row. myPhpAdmin will display an interface to let me change some of the data in the row I just copied before adding it to the database. It usually will also auto-increment the index column so I won’t have to edit that.

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In order to work with myPhpAdmin effectively remember to practice on a test blog first, and to always back up both your whole database and the tables you will be working with. The more you learn the more time you can save yourself. There are many tutorials available on the net on writing queries to run in myPhpAdmin.

There is also a wide selection of both physical and cloud based books available on myPhpAdmin on sites like Amazon.com. You can choose from low cost introductory books that will enable you to learn simple tasks to more expensive and comprehensive manuals.

Five Social Media Mistakes to Avoid on your Website

If you own, or are working on starting a website that you want other people to see, you will definitely need to harness the power of social media.  In many ways, proper use of social media today is just as important as search engines like Google, and for some sites, it can drive just as much traffic.

While most website owners know that social media is an essential tool, most of them don’t really understand how to put it to good use. In fact, most webmasters make the same common mistakes over and over again, which can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of their social media marketing. Look over the following five mistakes, and make sure you’re not making them for your site.

1 – Mixing Business (site) & Personal Accounts

Mixing Business

In most cases, your website should have its own page that is not associated with your personal page.  While you can typically manage a business or website page from your personal login, that should be the extent of the association.  You don’t want to have everything mixed together or it will only cause confusion and annoyance for everyone involved.

When you have your personal account commenting and updating the website page, your friends and family will see every update.  This will quickly get them annoyed with you, and they will end up hiding all your posts.  In addition, if you’re not posting from an official name that is dedicated to the website, the followers of your page may get confused.

This is an easy mistake to avoid, so make sure you take the time to always post from a dedicated website social media account whenever possible.  It will take a little extra time up front, but it is well worth it in the long run.

2 – Not using Paid Advertising

Paid advertising

Even if you have thousands of people who ‘like’ or ‘+1’ or follow your social media account, each post you make will only be seen by about 10% of the total number of people associated with the account.  There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but the bottom line is that 10% is not that many.

In order to drive that number up to 100%, and even beyond, you need to use paid advertising.  Yes, this will cost you money, but it is really quite affordable. Of course, if you are not making any money with your website, this might not be the best idea.

If you are, however, it is absolutely essential, and here is why:

  • Targeted – You can choose exactly who sees the ‘sponsored’ post
  • Effective – Social media paid advertising has been a proven way to drive traffic and build followers
  • Easy – You can set up advertising on a post in just a minute or two
  • Customizable – You can choose exactly how long the ad should run, how much you want to spend, and even what hours of the day you want it running

Most people won’t want to use paid advertising to promote every one of their posts.  Instead, only use this tool when you’re posting something especially interesting.  This will help you gain additional followers, so that 10% who see the rest of your posts will be an even bigger number of people.

3 – #Hashtags

Twitter Hashtag

Love them or hate them, hashtags are here to stay.  As someone who is looking to drive traffic to your website, you are almost certainly using hashtags incorrectly.  Almost everyone either uses them WAY too much, or WAY too little.

The bottom line with hashtags is not that you should put a # before each key word in your post, but that you should try to jump on trends to gain additional viewers.

For example, if you wrote a post about how to buy athletic shorts, you may have wanted to use the hashtag #worldcup2014 in your post (while the world cup was running).  This would get your post in a lot of lists associated with the world cup.  Of course, the people who read these lists will be interested in athletic shorts, so it is a good fit.

Before writing any posts on your social media accounts, you should go look at the top 100-200 trending hashtags at the moment, and try to use as many of them as you can.  Of course, you want them to fit in with what you’re posting too, or you’re just wasting time.

4 – One way Conversation

One Way Communication

While blogs and websites are typically a great way for you to get your information published and seen by a lot of people, social media is supposed to be a two way conversation.  While you may initiate most of the conversations with your posts, you need to be watching what other people are saying about them.  When someone comments on your post, try to respond to them right away.

Even just going through and liking their posts, or thanking them for their comments will help to show them that you’re actually a real person.  This will help you to build a relationship with your followers.  In addition, the more interactions you can get on your page, the more your posts will show up in the dashboards and news feeds of your followers.  The bottom line here is, you should always be communicating back and forth with your social media followers.

5 – Too Focused or Too Distracted

Social mediaThere are dozens of different social media sites out there today.  Most website owners either make the mistake of using only one (typically Facebook) or else spreading themselves too thin and trying to engage with people on every single social media platform they can find.

You really need to strike a good balance that works for your schedule and site.  Virtually every website should have an account on the following platforms:

  • Facebook – This is the largest social network in the world, it is essentially a requirement for all websites.
  • Twitter – Same here, you really must have a Twitter account.
  • Google + – Like it or hate it, Google + is here to stay.  In addition, it will almost certainly have an impact on your sites SEO than any other social network.

Depending on the type of website you’re running, you may want to consider adding accounts on these popular social networks:

  • Pinterest – This site is invaluable if you are running any type of site that could benefit from sharing images.  It is extremely popular and can drive thousands of users to your site.
  • Tumblr – Another huge site.  Many people will simply auto-post their content to Tumblr for easy traffic and back links.
  • Instagram – Again, this is a great image sharing platform, and if done properly, you can drive a lot of traffic.
  • LinkedIn – For any business/professional websites, this is an excellent option.

Choosing which of these sites you want to participate on can be difficult, but if you attempt to do them all, you’ll end up doing them all poorly, which won’t help you in the long run.  Figure out how much time you can spend on social media, and then only join as many sites as you’ll be able to keep up with.

Avoiding the Mistakes

If you work hard at avoiding each of the above listed mistakes, you will turn your social media efforts from a waste of time into an incredible source of traffic for your website.  While it isn’t always going to be easy, it is well worth the effort.

How to get 200% more Sales?

The “secret” to more conversions is as simple as understanding what the buyer wants. It’s no more a B2B or a B2C strategy to get more leads. It’s about H2H or Human 2 Human interaction that converts more leads. Understanding buyer requirement, the stage where he/she is in and the budget are something’s that are of paramount importance. It’s pretty much easy after that, as, the information you gather acts like a blue print to future success.

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Here’s a step-by-step analysis of the above model

Customer Segmentation

Customers segment themselves and take no notice of how companies segment their markets. When choosing between competing products and services, customers select the proposition that meets their needs better than any other. To win market share, therefore, a company must ensure that their offers meet these needs better than any other at a price they perceive as providing superior value for money (which does not necessarily mean it has to be the cheapest).

Customer wants to see the “value” in what they are paying for. Example – a company offers unlimited features and charge lower rates when compared to your company or any other competitor. The obvious thing to do is lower your rates and provide the same features, right? NO, it gives you an opportunity to experiment using different components together and provide more value added features that are unique to your business model. Price decrease is NOT the only alternative.

 Reaching Your Customer

 The “Reaching Your Customer” part is a multi-platform approach where you need to understand where your future customer is coming from. Shorter the time taken to figure this out, the better and sooner the results.

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Conversion Optimization

Website revamp is just one part of conversion optimization. The key to succeeding with conversion optimization is found in understanding visitor engagement. If you don’t know the details (who, how, why) of how people engage with your site today, how can you devise tests that are effective?

Each conversion optimization strategy goes through the following steps:

Analysis- Research- Hypothesis-Design & testing- Implementation

The Engagement

The key to understanding the success of any marketing & web presence strategy is by finding out the engagement achieved by them. The “getting the love back” phase is most important in analyzing the results achieved and comparing it to the earlier results. It’s also a good idea to perform A/B testing for some of the most important marketing campaigns you plan to run. Some of the metrics we follow to understand viewer engagement are-

  • Visitor Loyalty: direct or bookmarked site visits (as opposed to visits from search engines or ads).
  • Subscriptions Initiated: email, print, and mobile signups through website.
  • Content Shares: pages, blogs, videos shared to social networks or emailed.
  • Visitor Promotion: downloaded whitepapers, e-books, etc.
  • Page Views of Mission-Centric Content: one page checkout pages, pricing section, contact us section.
  • Opts-in: Conversion hikes due to particular types of CTA’s, offers, customer stories, etc.

The Nurturing

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  • The steps mentioned below describes the lead nurturing part in a step by step manner-
  • Understand leads better – their intent, where they are in the purchase cycle.
  • Classify the leads based on sales readiness.
  • Pass on hot leads to sales.
  • Nurture leads with relevant information.
  • Run personalized lead nurturing campaigns using email marketing solution.

The best way to understand this step by step approach to achieving higher sales is by implementing it or a Beta test for that matter. If you haven’t tried this strategy then you are bound to get far better results. If you have and the results haven’t been as per your expectation then, scale the process to a new level and you will get guaranteed results.

Success with Internet Marketing

Digital Marketing Success

Internet marketing has grown tremendously over the last few years. The sheer number of businesses joining the bandwagon of established businesses is a testimony of the enormous income potential of internet ventures. Though innumerable opportunities abound online, it takes more effort and resources to succeed with internet marketing. In the next section, we shall look at some powerful tips that can help you harness the full power of internet marketing to grow your business.

Know Your Niche

Customer knowledge is the most important thing in Internet Marketing success. Market research surveys are one of the best ways to understand the market you are in, the effect you can bring to the market and also understand how happy the customer is with your services. A thorough market analysis takes care of the first part and for the second we take satisfaction surveys generally called CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) or CSAT. A satisfaction survey is done by analyzing the most important things that your customer expects from your company compared to that of your closest competitor.

The parameters are set by a small sample out of the population survey (say 10 people) and the next steps involve the rating done by the entire sample population. The CSAT score is one of the key parameters through which your business can be improved. Also, a CSAT score can give you the knowledge about what you are doing right or wrong with your Internet Marketing strategy. It can be as simple as a question like “Where did you come to know about our company?”

Identify your goals

If from the survey you find out that hardly few know about your business then your goal obviously should be to spread the word like wildfire! Before you start creating your marketing plan, it is vital to know the reason why you need the data. There should be a specific question in mind before you proceed with the process. This enables you to set the key performance indicators (KPIs). IF you know your KPI’s, then it becomes easy to stitch a marketing plan around it.

Develop Your Marketing Plan

Will it be a mix of SEO and SEM or predominantly Social Media? A perfect combination is required to build the “perfect” marketing plan. You should know what will work for you and, the understanding of the industry and the customers will help you get there.

The marketing plan should also be a mirror of the brand image that you would like to portray. Are you going in with a hipster appeal or like a gentleman? Your identity will reflect in your sales.

Implement and plot data

Data gathering is a key requirement in understanding whether you plan worked or not. After implementing the marketing plan, your key responsibility should be to closely monitor the progress and the final results. The results will give you an inside view as to why your plan worked or didn’t work. Either way, you learn.

Learn

Numerous plans fail. It’s common. Even the well-crafted plans fail some time. So do you sulk about the results and close down your marketing team or, do you do something about it. If it’s the first one that hits your mind as a probable solution then, there is no use going forward with this article.

Every result is a pathway to improve something that’s being done. At least you did something. That’s a start. If you find out that Social media didn’t work for your brand then analyze why it didn’t work. If the customer analysis showed that Social media did work then, it’s a fault with something you are doing. Change the strategy. Be Agile.

Repeat

Everything has a price attached to it. Success too is not a one night thing. If something is working for you then do it again. Even it’s not giving you conversion or ROI instantly, its doing something for you that is far more important in the initial stages of a business, “Putting the Word Out”.

Internet marketing is not rocket science. It’s a thing that will work if you know the basics of it and have the courage to implement what you “see and feel”, the courage to understand that “You can fail” and the courage to accept “Success without going into the flight mode”.