Do You And Your Business Feel Secure Online? 

online security

Every so often, we hear of an internet virus or scam or threat to our security or privacy that rattles the growing internet community like a babies toy. Are these threats genuine causes for alarm for your business? Or can you sleep safe knowing that your hosting provider has it covered?

The Big Four
Over the years, we’ve had Storm, Sasser, MyDoom and Melissa, four of the biggest and baddest computer viruses of all time. They were disseminated through the internet, causing major issues, not just for users, but also for companies like Microsoft and Google that were directly affected. 

More recently, Apple fell victim to a security frailty in its iCloud backup and storage facility that seen celebrity accounts hacked and private photos spread across the web.

SPAM and Phishing
There’s a constant battle against SPAM and phishing emails, which see scam artists set up fake companies and websites in order to pry personal details from recipients via email. Even though the internet community is working hard and has clamped down on phishing scams, they do still rear their ugly little heads every once in a while. 

Recently, in Ohio, 150,000 customers and employees of the E-ZPass tolling system were targeted by a phishing scam where hackers attempted to rein in tolling payment into their own bank accounts.

Heartbleed
We had the Heartbleed virus last autumn that caused heartache for many internet users that had various usernames and passwords stolen for websites such as Yahoo. This was the biggest threat we’d seen for years and had users across the globe clambering to change all of their internet passwords.

The New Worm
And now, the latest cause for alarm is apparently the Shellshock Worm. It threatens nearly 20% of web server operating systems and could have a worse effect than Heartbleed. 

The vulnerability is relating to a few lines of code in Bash, a program that runs on Linux and Unix operated servers across the globe. Apparently, if this bug is woken, it can jump from server to server, stringing together like a worm, and could end up causing huge problems for networks the world over. 

The Impact
What would happen if your entire site went down tomorrow? What if all of your user’s data or financial information was leaked? The thought doesn’t bare thinking about.The more we hear about these threats and frailties, the more confidence people loose in the internet. It may not be a problem for developers and those with an innate technical knowledge of how the internet works, but what about the small business owners and the average online customer? 

You’re Safe With Us
At Fast Track, we don’t run the Bash program, so our clients are in safe hands. We’re working daily to protect the privacy of our clients and tirelessly on the security of our systems. Your confidence and trust means more to us than anything else and your safety remains paramount. 

Your Thoughts…
Do you feel confident and secure online both personally and from a business perspective? It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Posted by Tuesday, October 7, 2014 1:16:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C SMB website security

What Facebook's News Feed Update Means For Your Social Media Strategy 

facebook social media strategy

For a while, Twitter has been the place where people flock to catch breaking news stories and hold conversations around TV shows and sporting events in real time. Now, with Facebook’s latest News Feed update, it looks like the social media giant is tackling Twitter in its own backyard. But how will it affect your social media strategy and social lead generation?

Facebook announced on Thursday that it has been testing, and is due to launch, an algorithm change that seeks to bring new and timely posts to the forefront of user’s News Feeds. Although Facebook may be a little late to the party in the real time engagement space, it still has some beneficial implications and opportunities for businesses small and large due to the sheer number of users on the network.

Traditionally, Facebook optimizes News Feeds in accordance to what’s grown in popularity since you were last there. So, if you check Facebook on Monday morning, and one of your friends posts something on Monday afternoon that gets a lot of likes, you might see that post at the top of your News Feed when you log back in on Tuesday night. That’s all well and good generally speaking, but these days, users crave freshness and news. Things move so quickly that yesterday’s headlines are today’s toilet paper, especially around areas like TV, sports or events where timing and in-the-moment comments and interactions are key. 

To address this, Facebook’s latest update seeks to prioritize timely content in two ways:

1.    Through "factoring in trending topics: Facebook introduced ‘Trending’ in January to highlight popular topics being discussed across the world on Facebook. It now plans to expand on this by showing your friend’s posts on these trending topics in your News Feed. 

Whether this will begin to base trending topics around your peer group or friends, or on timely posts related to your interests and page likes, or whether it keeps the focus more on general national or international trending topics remains to be seen.

2.    The speed at which people like and comment: If people like and comment on something as soon as it’s posted, and then the engagement tails off, Facebook will treat this as a timely post and prioritize similar ones in user’s News Feeds. Although, again, whether this will work on a local, national or international scale is as yet unknown.

Facebook claim that, through its early testing, these more timely posts generate a 6% higher engagement rate. (FYI: Facebook classes ‘engagement' as the number of users sharing, commenting, liking or clicking on a post.)

What This Means For Your Social Media Strategy

For businesses big and small, these changes present opportunities for those that can react quickly to change. Slightly bigger changes will be required for many companies, so that those who manage social media are given:

•    Flexible working hours, 
•    Autonomy,
•    Decision making authority, 
•    Absolute trust, 

All this is needed in order to keep your finger on the pulse of the global conversation and take advantage of real-time participation. 

There’s even an opportunity for Facebook to extend this timely prioritization into the advertising realm. For example, Facebook could potentially offer a real-time advertising service that allows brands to pay to be put in front of their target customers during, say, an episode of House or the Superbowl.

The Right Time

Marketing is an amalgamation of lots of things, and one of the most important elements of marketing is 'getting the right message to the right people at the right time’. However, when your customers are global and they don’t switch off, that time is now, and Facebook may have just given you a window of opportunity, so open your curtains.

 

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Posted by Friday, September 26, 2014 3:23:00 PM Categories: B2C SMB social media social media marketing

Why Your eCommerce Site Search Is Losing You Sales and How to Fix It 

fixing ecommerce site search

Customers are accustomed to online searching and expect to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, especially when it comes to shopping. If customers can’t find a product on your website, they’ll search elsewhere and you may loose them forever. Therefore, having an intuitive and functional on-site search facility is imperative for ecommerce websites. However, according to a recent study by the Baymard Institute1, not many businesses are meeting customer expectations when it comes to on-site searching. So how can you improve your on-site search facility and reign in some of those lost sales?

How to Fix On-Site Search

The Baymard report found that the design of the search interface was almost as important as the search algorithm itself1. So putting efforts into the design of the search bar, the suggested search options and search results pages could see you capture lost leads without a great deal of effort.

Search Bar Design

The intuitive design of the search bar itself can help maintain a smooth user journey and allow users to progress without friction. In order to get the best out of your search bar, you can try a few things, including:

  1. Place it in a prominent position. Ideally, the search bar will be in the head2 of the site, so that it’s consistent and visible from every page3.  This makes it easier to find, as most people are accustomed to the search box being in the top-right corner.
  2. Use a different color scheme4. Making the search bar a contrasting color to the rest of your site will help it stand out and make it easier to find. This will help customers who know what they want and just want to find it quickly.
  3. Make it obvious that it’s a search box. This will help make the search facility accessible and easier to use for casual or less frequent users. You can make the search box more obvious by:
  • Including search suggestions, such as ‘enter product name’ or ‘search for a product, catalog no. or keyword’ in the search field3
  • Labeling the search button ‘Search’, as opposed to ‘Go’ or using the magnifying glass icon

Autocomplete

Using Autocomplete in the search field helps users by:

  • Correcting difficult spelling
  • Saving user effort
  • Speeding up the search

This will help create a seamless user journey and shepherd users on their way smoothly.

Plus, you can use your website analytics to make your Autocomplete suggestions more relevant. Simply to track your on-site searches to learn what users are genuinely searching for, then tailor your suggestions to more closely align with popular products and search terms5.

Search Results Page

The search results page can be the difference between helping users progress with their journey and reviewing their search term. There are a few techniques we can use in order to allow users to find what they’re looking for without having to revise their search or try an alternative method, such as:

  1. Using imagery. Showing product images in your search results will help users find what they’re looking for at a glance. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for, then, if they can see your product offering, they’ll have more chance of being enticed by something similar.
  2. Showing social proof6. Including reviews and customer ratings on the items listed in the search results will help users find popular items. Even if your search algorithm isn’t perfect and your results aren’t perfectly matched, you can still help the customer on their journey by dangling a carrot.
  3. Including filters. If your site has masses of content, help users narrow things down post-search, by offering filtering options at the top or the side of the search results. For example, if you’re a retailer and a user searches for ‘smart shoes’, you can help them narrow this search down by offering filtering options such as ‘male or female’, ‘brand [list brands]', 'size [list sizes]’, ‘review ratings' and 'price range’.
  4. Creating a sense of urgency. This can encourage users to intuitively click the closest match from the first list of search results. Amazon uses “order in the next 4 minutes for free delivery”, some airlines use “only 2 seats available at this price” and some hotel booking websites use “22 people looking at this room right now” or “only 1 room left”.

Close the Gap

There may still be some work to do from a backend perspective, in order to display perfectly matched search results. In the meantime, start closing the gap by swaying potential deserters, boosting sales and edging in front of the rest of the ecommerce industry with these tips.

References

1 http://baymard.com/blog/ecommerce-search-report-and-benchmark

2 http://webdesign.about.com/od/beginningtutorials/a/head_web_pages.htm

3 https://econsultancy.com/blog/10407-site-search-for-e-commerce-13-best-practice-tips#i.1dmo0e51c5tdtp

4 https://blog.kissmetrics.com/ecommerce-website-search/

5 http://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/14042629-7-simple-tips-for-improving-ecommerce-site-search

6 https://econsultancy.com/blog/64704-25-effective-design-patterns-for-ecommerce-site-search-results#i.baka8urntfbhpb  

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Posted by Tuesday, September 16, 2014 12:34:00 AM Categories: ecommerce retail marketing

Should You Opt For Cloud Hosting For Your Website? 

cloud hosting for website

If you’re planning on creating a website for your business, then one of the first things you’ll want to consider is where and how you host it.

What Is Hosting?

All of the files that make up a website are stored (or hosted) on a web server. A web server is simply a computer that’s part of a network and connected to the internet. When you type a URL into the address bar on your web browser (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer), or click a link on Google, your web browser needs to know what web page to show you. It does this by following the web address back to the web server, which in turn tells your browser the correct page to display and all of the files and images that go with it.

VPS Hosting

VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting where your website is hosted on a dedicated web server. This single server will be responsible for storing all of the files that make up your website and also handling and processing all of your website’s traffic i.e. telling all of your visitor’s browsers which pages to display. 

The major floor with VPS hosting is that, should there ever be a problem with your server or when routine maintenance has to be carried out or should there be a security breach, then your site will be taken offline while any work is undertaken. If you run an ecommerce store, this can not only loose you sales, but also deter potential customers from returning.

Cloud Hosting

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Cloud' before, especially if you own an iPhone, as Apple’s iCloud backup storage has helped edge the term closer to the mainstream. But, what is 'Cloud Hosting’?

Cloud Hosting is when your website is hosted on a variety of servers, each connected to each other. This group of servers work with each other, forming a virtual cloud.

Why Cloud Hosting Is Right for Your Website

There are many reasons why you might want to choose Cloud Hosting over VPN Hosting for your website. The some of the major reasons are:

Efficiency and Speed - with cloud hosting, your site is hosted by an amalgamation of servers, potentially across the world. This means that, rather than placing a large demand on one single server, the load is spread across each connected server. Therefore, if someone tries to load your website in Russia, they can load it from the server or group of servers closest to them. This means that your website loads faster, as no single server is under strain at any point.

Cost Benefits - you only pay for the bandwidth and space you actually use when you host in the cloud. If you’re an SME looking to create your first website, you won’t be using a lot of space or bandwidth initially, which makes cloud hosting more cost effective. Your hosting needs will grow with your website and business needs, meaning the cost would rise incrementally. Your business will scale simply and you’ll never pay for server space that you don’t need.

Running Time - with cloud hosting, there’s typically a 99.9% uptime. This means that your website will never be offline while maintenance is carried out. This is because your website is effectively running on many servers. Therefore, when maintenance is carried out on one of the servers, another server or group of servers is employed to handle the traffic.

Many Hands Make Light Work

The phrase ‘many hands make light work’ is certainly true when it comes to web hosting and, even though Cloud Hosting is on the rise at the moment, not every hosting provider offers it right now.

All of our websites come equipped with cloud hosting, so you can get fast loading speeds and near 100% uptime at a reasonable cost by contacting us today. 

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Posted by Monday, September 15, 2014 4:04:00 PM Categories: web development web hosting website

Six Tips for More Effective Video Marketing 

video marketing tips

Online videos are proven to aid customer purchasing decisions1 and are becoming the cornerstones of many brand’s digital strategy. Typically, 80% of viewers remember the video they’ve watched2 and 45% take some kind of action, such as visiting the brand’s website or searching for more information1. So we’ve put together a number of tips to help you use video marketing to boost your sales and increase you leads.

1. It’s not about going viral

Viral videos fail to address your specific target market’s unique needs and problems.

While viral videos may well raise awareness in some cases, if you’re looking to increase leads and sales, chances are you have a specific target market with specific needs and problems. By aiming to go viral, you’ll wind up creating light and generic video that fails to convert users or inspire behavior. In doing so, you’ll forfeit the opportunity to speak directly to your target market about how you can meet their needs or solve their problems.

2. Make every second count

You’ve got to make the first 10 seconds of your video as engaging as a hypnotist's pocket watch.

As with anything else online: when a users load a webpage, opens an email or sees an ad, their first impression is made in a split second. Therefore, online, you don’t have long to encourage the user to hang around. Video marketing is no different, with the first 10 seconds proving critical in keeping viewers tuned in. Plus, with an average of 60% of viewers deserting before the two-minute mark1, you’ve got to make the rest of the video just as captivating. 

3. Make it interactive

For complex subjects or in depth product tutorials, use tools that allow users to interact with video content.

Software such as Touchcast3 lets you embed images, web pages, maps, social media newsfeeds and hyperlinks4 into the your video. Viewers can then interact with content without having to leave the video. Software such as this is great for explaining complicated subjects and demonstrating specific features of products and services and is being used by teachers to better explain things to students4. So, why not use it to better explain your offer to potential customers?

4. Include visuals to enhance mobile usability

Many mobile users watch videos without sound, so make sure you include enough visuals so that your video can be understood on mute.

Mobile and tablet users are three times more likely to watch online videos than their laptop and desktop counterparts5, so optimizing your videos for mobile consumption is imperative. On mobile, a lot of people have their device on silent or watch videos in public spaces without sound enabled. Therefore, your video has to be fully understood on mute.

5. Pick the right host

YouTube vs Vimeo

Where to host your video is entirely dependent on the objectives behind its creation. However, the most important factor in choosing a host is that it’s reliable6.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world7 and has billions of visits per month8. It’s therefore the best place to host videos that you intend to reach a wide audience with. However, it’s not the only online video host to choose from.

A strong rival to YouTube is Vimeo. Vimeo only allows videos that are 100% created by the user, so you tend to find more creative videos there. Therefore, if you’re using animation or putting together something quite creative, Vimeo is for you.

6. Use natural social platforms

Uploading your videos onto social platforms directly ensure it plays seamlessly from the newsfeed.

Rather than share your YouTube or Vimeo link across your social networks, upload your video to your chosen social platform directly. Although this means that you’ll have duplicated content, and have to rack up the viewership across each platform, you will vastly enhance the user experience through ensuring that videos play seamlessly on each network.

Through following the above guidance, you’ll soon be making captivating videos for your specific target market that are geared for conversions.

References

1 http://www.videobrewery.com/blog/18-video-marketing-statistics

2 http://www.digitalsherpa.com/blog/25-amazing-video-marketing-statistics/

3 http://www.touchcast.com

4 http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/04/touchcast-pcs/

5 http://www.virtuets.com/45-video-marketing-statistics/

6 http://www.socialnomics.net/2013/12/03/video-marketing-the-basics/

7 http://www.socialmediafrontiers.com/2013/10/video-sharing-sites-vimeo-vs-youtube-vs.html#.VA0820voYy4

8 http://blog.qstion.com/youtube/vimeo-vs-youtube-vs-dailymotion-pros-and-cons-of-each-one

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Posted by Monday, September 15, 2014 3:47:00 PM Categories: content development inbound marketing social media marketing
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