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WordPress Basics: Useful Modifications (1)

WP, the popular WordPress CMS (or Content management System), is an enormous powerful tool for every small business, private individual running a Weblog, or even larger E-Commerce Websites.

Out of the box, WordPress is ready to be used for any of the above purposes — and then some.

This is a great thing. The CMS comes with the famous 5-minute installation feature, you basically just download the WP version you want (not necessarily always the latest but at least one of the more recent ones), punch in a few basic settings, and you’re good to go. A video showing this process as an easy-to-follow tutorial will be posted here soon. This will even help total newbies to be all set in no time!

The ease of installation is one of the reasons — if not the chief reason — for WordPress’ popularity all over the internet. WP websites make up a huge chunk of all Weblogs on the internet (between 40% to 70%, depending on how you count). WordPress’ ease of installation is a good thing — on one hand. It comes with a few disadvantages though, on the other.

For example, when a total Noob (or newbie) starts out with WordPress, all these nice “Get WordPress Now” helpers point to the very latest version of WordPress (that would be WP Ver4.4, as of this writing — and possibly 4.4.1 or something as soon as later this week). The “current” is usually the “best” version for most purposes, security-wise or when it comes to certain bugfixes or similar. As soon as you start adding something more specific for your purposes, maybe a special WP Plugin to do specific tasks, you may soon find out that not all the great Plugins there are will support the very latest of WordPress versions. It may well be, that your favourite (or most-needed) Plugin “only” supports WordPress’ previous version (which may have been top-of-the heap as recently as this morning but is kind of “old crap” in the afternoon).

Even worse, since WordPress 3.7 there is an “auto-update” feature activated by default. Pretty much as the name implies, this auto-update forces your website to automatically update to the latest version of WordPress once such a new version becomes available (maybe over lunchtime, in order to stick to the example above). This means that a somewhat modified or specialised website running some we–maintained and useful Plugin for specific extra tasks you may like or absolutely require for your purposes may or may not be incompatible — and, in more severe cases, possibly even causing your website to crash — from, well, lunchtime or whenever that next WP update happens to be. Not good.

Some plugin aren’t completely compatible with WordPress updates as soon as the updates come out.

So one of the more useful “modifications” you might want to make to your installation is disabling this somewhat questionable WP auto-update function. This is easy to do. It only requires adding one line of code as described below:

  • Go to your WordPress server.
  • Go to the subdirectory of …/yourwebsite/
  • Find the wp-config.php file”
  • Open the file in an editor
  • To completely disable all automatic updates (of any type), add the following line to your wp-config.php file:
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );

This will save you from waking up one morning and finding that some auto-update has broken your installation.

Still, you may want to manually update to a fairly recent version in order to eliminate vulnerabilities or exploits that may come up over time as attackers try to find ways into websites. Once you know that a more recent version is not doing any harm to your configuration and Plugins used, do a manual update to a later version (or the latest one, if you are reasonably sure that it will work with your Plugins).

There are also Plugins of their own to more comfortably control WP updates in a Graphical environment. Disable Automatic Updater https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-disable-automatic-updates/ and Update Control http://wordpress.org/plugins/update-control/ are two Plugins doing just that.

 

Basic Website Security — Part 1: Why You Might Want to Change Settings

Attackers use certain exploits in software. This is a well-known fact that everyone knows throughout both the multi-media and IT-security industries.

Standard software or at least popular pieces of software everyone and their grandmother use are particularly vulnerable — think allocation of resources, the bigger the target the more attractive it seems from an attacker’s point of view.

This doesn’t mean that you needed to avoid popular software like WordPress for content management, nor avoid any other widely-used solutions. (“Security by Obscurity” does not usually cut it, anyway.) All this just explains why you might want to stay informed about existing vulnerabilities (or, if you don’t have the time or expertise for that, trust the developers to fix any security holes and simply update to the latest and “best” version).

Beyond this, you might add some common-sense measures though:

  • do not use trivial passwords (no need for overly fancy ones either)
  • watch your server logfiles for latest goings-on on your website
  • respond accordingly, if you detect any irregularities
  • these usually include login attempts to “standard user IDs” (such as admin)
  • change your Administrator account to a different user ID
  • avoid your own domain name as a user ID (script kiddies try to brute-force that name regularly)
  • deploy some security features (most CMS-es have special security add-ons, “plugins”, or packages)
  • set those packages correctly (a fire extinguisher is of no use, unless you know how to handle it)!
  • make frequent backups so you can recover in case of an attack

With just a handful of common-sense procedures or reasonably easy-to-use add-ons, your website should be safe and run for years without any successful attacks or even serious-enough incidents (almost-successful attempts) whatsoever. Attackers aren’t that smart, and just stopping their most stupid attempts usually leaves them clueless and moving on to easier targets.

 

Top Five Tips for Marketing with Video

It is not a secret that Video is one of the best tools there is for both internet and traditional marketing campaigns. Video is quickly gaining popularity among businesses. Statistics show significantly higher levels of visitor engagement, significant increases in conversion rates, and improved search engine optimisation results when video is used in marketing activities.

Companies both large and small have a huge need for quality content. Content was king since the very beginning of commercial internet use, now it’s not “just content” anymore but Video Is King, meaning that content with related video scores the highest.

A well-produced video can be just the thing to catch the attention of your website visitors or prospective customers in a brick-and-mortar setting .

The following five tips explain how to use video to improve SEO for internet selling and draw in more customers both online and off:

1. Pre-Production: Draft an actionable plan containing a list of reasonable and achievable goals for your video before you start shooting it. When working with a pro, ask them to incorporate these marketing goals at the pre-production stage and shoot in accordance with them. Time is money (for both yourselves and your video producer), and this greatly saves on unnecessary footage before it is even produced. Targeted content with a solid call-to-action does the trick. You want to take viewers to the next step of the sales funnel.

2. Create high-quality videos: not necessarily hiring a big-time production firm (expensive), but have your video shot with a few simple techniques in mind in order to not have it bounce (viewers leaving after a few seconds, bad for SEO rankings) and, that way, do more harm than good. Only start after solid pre-production (your own goals written down, properly transferred to video pro’s shooting plan), avoid long-windedness and slow-moving storylines. Make sure that state-of-the-art equipment is used (you want a production pro knowing their job, using the right lighting and other equipment to come up with well-produced HD video footage to be made into a brief clip, ideally less than one minute in total length.

3. Host your videos on your own domain: while YouTube or Vimeo and similar hosting sites may seem convenient for hosting videos, they will not let you have the benefit of increased web traffic to your own website. To tap into YouTube’s high visitor traffic, consider having your video pro extract an introductory video and post this with a brief text description and a link to the full video on your own domain (or have your video or marketing specialist do it for you). This will increase your visibility and drive visitors to your own site, and that’s where you want them to be (not YouTube)! On top, include share buttons for your videos, blog posts, and other content to give others the opportunity to amplify your reach.

4. Optimise your videos by adding meta descriptions: search engines cannot see but need to get an accurate picture of what’s in your video. Be sure to only use terms of what is actually in your video to avoid viewers quickly moving on (counted as bounces and damaging your rankings).

5. Use social media to get more traction from your video by distributing it across social media channels: when the above is done, don’t stop here but get more bang for the buck by also posting the video on all of your social media sites for your audience to re-share and enjoy.

We can help you to effectively use video marketing for both your online or traditional business and increase website traffic and customer conversion rates. Our business-friendly priced packages cost significantly less than the benefit they provide. Check out our video production services or get in touch with us for a free quote.

EU Bureaucrats Having to Admit Failure — Again

European Union bureaucrats are slowly waking up to the reality of the damage done by their 2015 “Digital Goods” directive. A meeting with small business representatives has been scheduled for early September 2015 to “listen” to their concerns and “address the problem”. Another meeting with EU officials themselves will take place later that month.

Hear, hear.

They were unable to see this obvious set of problems coming though, while taking control of our lives all the time. Considering the fat salaries they make off EU taxpayers’ money, this is even more appauling.

Although it is expected that those “forgotten” minimum thresholds will finally introduced, exempting the smallest and micro businesses from cumbersome consequences of bureaucratic overreach, they should not have been “overlooked” in the first place if anyone in Brussels knew anything about real life, let alone their area of “expertise”, at all. Also, the general problems raised by the “Digital Goods” directive remain: a violation of Public International Law principles on Extraterritoriality on one hand and a gross violation of the Presumption of Innocence on the other. Affected businesses operating in EU member countries will be required to answer to 28 foreign tax offices, potential audits, and other requests; also these businesses will have to prove when doing normal worldwide business that those transactions are not subject to VAT extortion in Europe. Both show utter disregard for basic principles of democracy and good governance and are a result from the arrogance with which bureaucrats on the EU level are operating.

In light of this continuous intrusion into citizens rights, lives, and livelihoods, a thorough change in European politics is due — rather long overdue — altogether. It remains to be seen how exactly this will be brought about and materialise.

Stock Photography: An Art, a Craft, a Technology, or a Business?

One of the frequently asked questions around Photography and Stock Photography in particular is, whether someone working in this field is an artist, a craftsperson, a technolgist, or a business owner. For arguments sake, let us pretend that we do not know that tax authorities believe this is a commercial endeavour, hence a “business”, and let us approach the question without the bias of tax laws.

Stock photography, let alone photography in general, is very much at home in the Arts field. It is quite evident that without some artsy approach, there is little chance of producing good and salesworthy results. Even for repro, infrared, or engineering photography, one might argue that there is still some degree of an “artistic eye” necessary.

Equally many ingredients in stock photography are derived from the crafts area: not only is your camera and other equipment a tool, but lighting, creating a set, and shooting a technically usable photo are undoubtedly what a craftsperson does.

In the day and age of photography as well as video production going increasingly digital, technology aspects are getting increasingly important in all these fields. Even in the age of film, there were lots of technical aspects to keep in mind, from film speed to mixing the right baths in the darkroom to using the correct set of brushes and scissors if you happened to be retouching. Little can you do as an aspiring photographer today, if you don’t know about computer storage media, USB standards, computer file systems on one hand or ISO settings or sensor noise, and many more — ideally on a sound basis of “old-style” knowledge, above –, on the other in order to make good use of these aspects and produce results that have all the features you want to influence using these aspects and settings.

The business aspect: it is present in everything you do as a photographer, particularly as a stock photographer where you primarily want to sell your work, and to the maximum number of prospective buyers at that. In order to succeed with that part, a thorough understanding of both artistic trends as well as marketing, particularly internet and social media marketing, are essential.

So, in summary, Stock Photography is All of the Above. Working as a stock photographer includes myriad ingredients from Arts, Crafts, Technology, and Business aspects.

Depending on the scale ow one’s own stock photography endeavours, one or the other may have a bigger share in the overall equation. From renting significant floor space in a business park to pursuing a micro-scale commercial and object photography business literally from the kitchen table, everything is included in the broader meaning of Stock Photograph — and don’t forget, the cost-reward-ratios can even be a lot better for smaller-scale operators. It all depends on one’s personal style and also on finding a niche and how to work it, from Yuri Arcurs Photography, Aarhus, Denmark or Joshua Hodge right down to the little guy.

Beating Adobe’s Stock Photo Prices: marquixHD Site Announcement

We are excited to announce an entirely new set of prices. From 4th of July onward, we will charge a simple flat price of just $9.97 per download. This flat price applies to all image sizes available in the marquixHD shop section of the http://www.marquix.net website and includes all download options (“Small JPEG”, “Medium JPEG”, and “Large JPEG). This new pricing structure includes a significant savings for the “Large JPEG” format. (Buyers will also be refunded manually in case the old and higher prices are automatically charged by the e-shop during an interim period while these new prices are implemented in the online store system.)

Our new prices are designed to match — or rather beat — Adobe’s price model. Prices for stock photos at Adobe have been set to $9.99 per download for single images. It should also be noted, that Adobe, Inc. are earning most of their money by selling proprietary software packages, by profiting from software patents, and by showing utter contempt against anything Open Source and ultimately their customers’ vital interests in order to improve their own bottom line. Following their acquisition of microstock image agency Fotolia, Adobe have announced new prices in order to break into the market — and eventually dominate the stock photography business. To achieve this, they would have to do away with Dreamstime, Shutterstock, Depositphotos, Canstockphoto, Getty Images’ iStock, and a whole bunch of other suppliers, and it will be interesting to watch whether they can manage doing so or how long it will take them. Although a tiny independent site, here at marquixHD we value independence and want to maintain a good image collection and reasonable prices — while offering even better prices than Adobe themselves! While these are admittedly only a tad cheaper, we believe the simplicity of introducing a flat price for all image sizes might appeal to photo buyers. We would also like to stress the ability of coupons for significant rebates and even lower prices. We will also introduce a special line of coupons for “Small JPEG” and “Medium JPEG” images in order to continue offering them at extremely low prices (in the area of a cup of U. S. brand name restaurant coffee). Where the new flat price turns out higher than previous “Small JPEG” or “Medium JPEG” downloads, a coupon should be used to continue buying at these extra-low prices for smaller formats. Buyers are welcome to request coupons from us direct. We will be happy to hear from you and e-mail your coupons for your purchases at marquixHD.

 

More Rules, More Regulation. All the Time

We used to think that running a small business, particularly an online one, was easier than operating a large bank, a licensed pub, or a commercial passenger transport enterprise. With the advent of sales tax (in America) and “value-added taxes” in European countries starting in the 1960s, all this began to change. Gradually at first, then more rapidly.

The European Union’s latest foolishness has resulted in a situation and consequences that even EU bureaucrats themselves, as per their own admissions, failed to understand at first and only fully got in the weeks and months after the new rules went into effect. Although they are now at least beginning to understand that the extent of the damage caused goes far beyond their original idea of further increasing tax revenue on the back of e-commerce businesses, they are now unwilling to rectify the situation they caused.

Beginning on 1 January 2015, each and every business (not only in Europe but also overseas where Eurocrats have even less business messing with the livelihoods of ordinary, law-abiding people) has to pay European local taxes when selling digital goods to anyone happening to reside in a European country. The precise tax rate depends on the location of the buyer and usually ranges from 17% to 25% or even a whopping 27% (in the case of EU member country Hungary).

Not a small sum of “protection money” to be paid, particularly if you’re a non-European person and do not have to expect protection (nor tyranny or rip-offs) from European governments. Plus, even the Cosa Nostra of Sicily always limited itself to operating locally — not worldwide. (The latter would usually be called an international crime cartel or organized crime but it is apparently “okay” when governments do it.)

In order to stay compliant, even the smallest businesses today need to comply with tax rules of a total of 31 countries throughout the wider EU and EFTA areas on top of their own domestic ones. This is a wholly unacceptable burden caused by out-of-control bureaucrats who have become all-to used to being fed fat salaries and pensions funded by taxpayer money instead of going out and earn their own incomes and take care of themselves.

Not surprisingly, a pressure group protesting these abuses of power on the part of unelected bureaucrats has been set up in order to have these onerous rules reversed and small businesses freed to do what they do best: finding a need, filling it, and earning a legitimate profit in the process providing for their owners, families (and even tax collectors) along the way.

It appears that governments and their finance “experts” have all of a sudden forgotten that that’s the way it works and that they themselves would have to close shop in a matter of weeks if neglecting this reality.

As a result, large e-commerce corporations like eBay or Amazon were initially set to be the only ones able to handle the compliance load required. Offering their users or “Marketplace” sub-sellers a turn-key fix to the mess caused be regulators, they were first set to profit massively by luring even more small online sellers into their “attractive solutions” to a problem that should have been wholly unnecessary in the first place. A few weeks later, a number of smaller and more independent services have sprung up though, offering small businesses mom-and-pop operations, and individual websites the same level of service with Plugin solutions for widely-used CMS and e-commerce engines such as WordPress and Woo Commerce and similarly popular solutions. Like it or not, Eurocrats have created an entire new market for accountancy, legal, and similar services supporting small and independent online sellers with their — entirely not asked-for — compliance needs. Their Plugin solutions may or may not carry a price tag for installation and use, or the actual services rendered will, but one way or other the overall cost of doing business and staying “compliant” has increased again — a cost of doing business that, like any other, will sure be passed on to buyers and increase overall prices again. All that during times of “economic crisis” when any economy needs relief rather than further hindrances. We will all see one day if this is going to end well, but one might be forgiven for doubting it.

 

For Payment card “security cost” refer to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payment_Card_Industry_Data_Security_Standard

You Are the Product: “Free” Hosting and What’s Wrong With It

First of all, I am a great fan of WordPress as a CMS and fantastic software package. Seriously, because WP is so much more than “just” a Blog (or Blogging software package) but — in case there’s anyone here who’s reading this and who did not already know that — it is a full-blown content management system, and then some! The mere fact that there are gazillions of Plugins available, some of which make WP a full-fledged online store, e-commerce site, or membership website etc., is proof of that. I am into this stuff since the early versions of Slash.org — I guess that’s when Matt Mullenweg still was in diapers… In fact, I have been into all kinds of “E-Business” and “Blogging” or, rather, virtual communities, chat forums, UseNet usegroups, BBS-ses (that is bulletin board systems) and “mailboxes” (as they used to be called back in the day, way-back in the day) since a very long time ago when I still was a little sixth-grader or something. And yes, I very soon figured out that I wanted and needed my own website (or forum or board or mailbox or whatever) in no time. I also got one (or two, and then more and more of them) and am running one sort or the other continuously for roughly 20 to 25 years now. So it should be pretty obvious that I know my stuff from an in-depth user point of view here. Also note, I always sticked with the Open Source variants of pretty much everything I used. I also still got my old Slash-org O’Reilly books flying around in the attic. I pretty much guess you get the picture. You can also find out that I am even using a WordPress.com Blog as we speak for (and despite) various reasons and although I am not so sure how “censorship-proof” that may be. All this brings us now to the point raised in the headline : despite all the great stuff that WP (or “WordPress-dot-org”, as it is increasingly called?!) is, there are very serious drawbacks to that WordPress-dot-com thing. First and foremost, and while it is 100% cost-free, it also means you are getting exactly that: nothing. You may have noticed that you accept some “fascinating” as they call it ( I mean, really!) Terms of Use. To be very brief here, these provide for basically everything in favour of WordPress.com and nothing for you. That’s exactly the problem: you own nothing 8and why should you when it’s free). Exactly, and if that’s so, then why should you use it (at least as a primary Blogging resource)?? Better go for your very own WP installation on a server you control or, even better, physically own and have sitting in your basement or home office or wherever. That — and only that — is the way to go. Everything else does not only make you lose control but it leaves you at the mercy of numerous outside interests (as in contrary to your own interests)!

Steering Clear: Major Shift Away from Google

For years, everyone is used to using Google — or even “googling” — when looking things up over the internet. Younger readers and web users will probably hardly know anything else than Google, will never have heard of AltaVista or Lycos, nor know that Yahoo used to be the old “New” for searching the world-wide web back in the day.

Way-way back in the day.

This era could be about to come to an end now. New developments are just over the horizon.

Web search in general, including but not limited to Google, feels increasing competition from Social Media. Although largely mistakenly, users seem to believe equally usable results can be had by skipping the search engines entirely. Obviously neither having a grasp of any internet technology nor able to use some common sens, these “netizens” fail to realize why Google could become, well, Google in the first place: because “doing a web search” is an increasingly important use case in most peoples’ lives these days.

This is not to say that Google, in particular, was necessarily the way to go, but I still believe that a Search should be done using a (as in any) real and functioning search tool and not some Facebook or Twitter stuff, or any other toy-style “solution”.

A search engine skewing results by operating on “different realities” for different users and re-arranging what’s showed to users based on their Google Analytics cookie information — deservedly — loses credibility and, thus, shoots itself in the knee. Google has done just that: users are displayed preferential results based on information about their general web usage behavior and interests as gathered through nearly-omnipresent cookies that come together with Google Analytics These are, unfortunately, used by most websites out there these days, except a very few (like yours truly’s, by the way).

By comparison, other biased results like the ones that are (more legitimately) adapted to user behavior, like Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm), may all of a sudden appear “appropriate”. However, Google’s “search” algorithm isn’t.

Still this should not mean to skip search engines altogether because there are other search engines than Google out there doing a better and more honest job!

Digital: Photos and Video Footage Made Easy

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There was a time when photography was hard work.

Equipment was expensive.  Developing film took hours (sometimes days or even weeks).  You had to keep a journal of all your camera settings and the shots you took at those settings — to see which ones you got right and which were wrong when your pictures came eventually along after being developed — just to learn the craft.

How much easier we have it today: the advent of digital photography has brought leaps of development and improved technical features. Add (or rather subtract) the much lower prices charged for these nice pieces of equipment and you will see what we are  talking about.

The same is true for video. The advent of DV cameras (digital video as opposed to analogue video tape that used to come with clumsy tape recorders or, still clumsy but somewhat more portable, camcorders, let alone film cameras running on tons of expensive photographic film) has brought the same advantages to moving pictures, too. And the price factor is even more dramatic than in the world of still photography.

With today’s equipment, it’s a breeze to snap photos or produce video footage or clips in Venice… take pictures or videos of the mountains in Alberta… document your hometown for a Blog entry about your home town… and also even sell your photos to third parties for external use… for $100 to $500 (or even more, if you choose a more specialised approach) each. Videos are even more marketable, particularly when offered to micro-stock video or particular markets that exist for video.

All without formal training or expensive equipment.

In fact, these are the kinds of results some of our followers — people just like you — are taking.

They love the freedom that blogging on one hand and photography or taking videos on the other provide. They love the chance to essentially “play” all day and call it work… the absence of stress because they live life on their own terms… and none of them wake up miserable on a Monday morning wishing the day wasn’t a work day.

And, best of all, if you’re blogging and also can take reasonably quality photos (or videos), now it’s your turn.

Sure it means you’ll be working, but this kind of work will be FUN.

Whether the photography and video part(s) of it is meant to only complement your existing blogging business or is going to be an attempt on extra income alongside your blogging activities, it is sure worth remembering what you can do with photos or video.

Social Media Marketing: Time Is of the Essence

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Social media campaigns are very popular means of marketing and customer communications. Their efficiency and measurable results for your business need to be carefully crafted though. Much depends on whether or not you understand a handful of easy-to-learn principles.

Chief among those is timing. Whether or not a Post on Facebook, a tweet over Twitter or a Pin on Pinterest come at the right (or wrong) time will determine how successful they are.

A good time to post for US audiences is during the morning (Eastern Time). That way your updates are still fresh when people get up and go to work (very fresh in NY, not too bad in L. A. though “three hours older” there). Using mobile devices, it is quite common that your content is viewed while commuting.

Unless you like to get up at around 4 am or 5 am, it is a good idea to either have your updates posted by partners who are located in Europe or use some timing mechanisms and posting tools to go live at the desired time.

There are also two more time slots — often much overlooked, but still as attractive as the early morning thing: around lunchtime (particularly when there is fair weather to be expected and people tend to spend their lunch breaks outside) and during “drive time”. Again, these are also primarily targeted at mobile device users, but some after-hours office or home-office use may occur as well — so keep that time of day in mind as well.

Particularly drive time hours in the evening have proven to work very well and bring proportionally higher results, more activity, clicks, and Likes to our own campaigns. Use these insights, and do the same for yours.

Facebook Everywhere: Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

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Social Media is what everyone seems to be doing these days. Facebook is literally everywhere, Twitter too, even some garbage called Google+ appears to become more popular — this is how desperate people are to get their word out there for free and become rich and famous (or so they think).

Truth is, just starting some Facebook ad campaign won’t do much for you to arrive there.

Facebook does very little to provide useful guidance or show their customers how to get real value out of paid Fb advertising. And why would they: isn’t it just as nice for them to just pocket your money and not care about whether or not it’s any good for you…?

Yes, they should care indeed (for we believe in exchanging real value for value, not running some rip-off or similar scheme). Rip-offs are not good, an economy of greed is despicable, businesses should provide real value if they want to make money — always, period. And it’s not even just a “philosophical” matter, it’s also a matter of satisfaction and the “fun of the ride”, and fun we have! If we’re actually helping you being more effective on top — even better. That’s what we hoped for.

What goes for Facebook also goes for all other “social sites” out there (Twitter, LinkedIn, that Google+ thing, Pinterest, you name it).

The most common misconception with paid Social Media ad campaigns is that people optimize their campaigns for Likes. Again, Facebook kind of “suggests” that’s the way it should be — but this is totally wrong. What you really want to do is optimizing for sales because that’s what your business makes its money off, not your page’s number of Fans. No sales, no profits — it’s that easy. So forget about all those FAQs, samples provided by Facebook (or other platforms), default settings, and other “convincing” influences that only mis-lead you, the paying business customer, in the end.

You need to alter these settings and pre-populated fields so that your real business goal is served: making more sales. The best way of doing this is running campaigns not for your Page, or Fb or any other Social Media presence, but your own web shop, selling page, blog or similar internet presence instead.

The first step of doing so is by selecting different targets (from those pre-selected “for you”) when building a campaign. A good place to start would be setting the URL for your own home page. Still better, use some “deep links” into your web presence in order to promote a particular page, ideally a product page or a landing page (AKA squeeze page) or similar. You might also want to use a page providing additional content (or something visually pleasing like a video), always together with a button or link to funnel your visitors where you are selling or offering something (and actually making money). The ins and outs being more complex (and we continue providing solutions to these and other challenges here on this site, so stay tuned and get our newsletter if not already a subscriber)…

The next step will be engaging your site visitors. Whatever page URL you lead them to, this page’s content must intrigue visitors right away, i e grab their attention within the first seconds of reading in order to make them want to read more and/or go ahead and click or do or buy something on your web site. Volumes have been written on how to do this, and we are only briefly touching upon the basics here. Your top priority should be to be clear and concise, present your offer (or outline your cause or campaign or whatever you want to tell people), probably sum up the essentials using bullet points or even more visual tools. Play around with layouts and color (without being obnoxious or creating any sort of overkill) and find out what works best for your audience. Brevity and clarity are king though, you need to keep this in mind.

Finally, you’ll want to obey some usability considerations. Your entry or landing page needs highlights that your visitors will notice and feel inclined to click on, a buy-now button may work in many instances. Once your visitors click and want to proceed, the experience throughout the next steps needs to be fully self-explaining and easy. (No one will go beyond a buy-now click if there are troublesome steps on the next page or the order and checkout process does not work properly, or similar). So take some extra care to make this work, and make this as easy as possible for your customers.

There are a great many commercial tools and services out there to choose from, and most of them work okay. They also come with a price tag though (usually a percentage taken from your sales). These may or may not be worth the extra cost, it all depends on your taste (and actual business figures). A very good alternative is self-hosting everything and implementing this within your own site and/or CMS (content management system), if you get it done properly. It will save you a ton of money in the long run (be warned though, it will kill your business if you don’t get it right). You may also want to hire professional help for this, if unsure. All depends on your experience and own ability and your sound judgement of yourself, your situation and your abilities here. Discuss with a pro or a fellow small business operator you know to learn more and make up your mind. We do a lot of this stuff on our own and strictly within our won site, using Open Source tools (and tons of experience plus hours worked). It provides us more control and independence. Still, we acknowledge that some people may be better off paying a percentage to PayPal or similar commercial service providers that not getting off the ground at all. It’s all a matter of style, your taste, as well as the nature of your business.

To discuss more details, please comment below — join the conversation. You may find likeminded people who want to share their experience, and everyone is better off and learns something new this way. The whole thing is not so much about ready-made knowledge but learning along the way. We hope you enjoy the ride and learn while you are at it — because that’s how success is made!

Google Update: Still Promoting Your Site Effectively

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Beginning in April 2012, Google has started to modify their way of “looking” at websites. Changes in basic structures of underlying algorithms around the “Googlebot” and database handling are meant to siphon out useless and dishonest results. These are most often achieved by dubious “consultants” tweaking their SEO methods in order to force overly-advantageous results for their own or their clients’ websites. Comment spamming or building an extensive web of — more or less legit — content that then, oh-so surprisingly, all points to a certain location are chief among these methods.

In order to restrict these con-artists and limit the success of their methods even further, Google has introduced yet another modification, an update to their Penguin update of last year. The consequences are not yet fully understood throughout the community — or rather communities (namely of legitimate SEO and illegitimate black-hat operators).

Here is some advice though:

Whatever the intricacies of the update or, in fact, any future modifications, staying with high-quality content and accepted ways of sharing, commenting or promoting that content will never be wrong (nor “punished” by any reasonable search engine). So instead of thinking up all sorts of stuff, comment spamming and doing stupid things, why not spend just a fraction of the time and effort involved for writing some meaningful content and create some legitimate Social Media buzz around it? Google and all the other bots love Facebook and similar sites. This is hardly a secret, it is a well-established fact, and while it is long known throughout the industry it is actually surprising that it is not the only thing all these strange characters out there are after. Would save them a lot of elbow-grease — and, indeed, trouble. On top, it’s also an integrity thing: as a business person, you really do not want to abuse someone else’s effort (and resources) by exploiting or tainting their operation with your garbage. Get out, you and your dirty BS down there under “comments” are not invited — not anywhere in the world, that is –, and it is not even “helpful” for your own little games anyway. So spend some time thinking (if you can), get a few new books or do some proper research over the net. Then, finally get it right. For all our sakes: your customers’, your own, and ours who do not want to have to constantly clean up after the likes of yourself…

Digital: Photos and Video Footage Made Easy

There was a time when photography was hard work.

Equipment was expensive.  Developing film took hours (sometimes days or even weeks).  You had to keep a journal of all your camera settings and the shots you took at those settings — to see which ones you got right and which were wrong when your pictures came eventually along after being developed — just to learn the craft.

How much easier we have it today: the advent of digital photography has brought leaps of development and improved technical features. Add (or rather subtract) the much lower prices charged for these nice pieces of equipment and you will see what we are  talking about.

The same is true for video. The advent of DV cameras (digital video as opposed to analogue video tape that used to come with clumsy tape recorders or, still clumsy but somewhat more portable, camcorders, let alone film cameras running on tons of expensive photographic film) has brought the same advantages to moving pictures, too. And the price factor is even more dramatic than in the world of still photography.

With today’s equipment, which may for some approaches start with as little as a current iPod model, it’s a breeze to snap photos or produce video footage or clips in Venice… take pictures or videos of the mountains in Alberta… document your hometown for a Blog entry about your home town… and also even sell your photos to third parties for external use… for $100 to $500 (or even more, if you choose a more specialised approach) each. A 6th generation iPod is capable of shooting decent HD 1080p video at 30 fps and has some great features, although Apple have made it not quite as pocket-sized as earlier versions, dropped the stainless steel case for an aluminum one, and also made a number of other questionable “improvements”. Still, this tiny piece of kit gives you a chance of at least starting out in video on top of photos. Videos are even more marketable, particularly when offered to micro-stock video or particular markets that exist for video.

All without formal training or expensive equipment.

In fact, these are the kinds of results some of our followers — people just like you — are taking.

They love the freedom that blogging on one hand and photography or taking videos on the other provide. They love the chance to essentially “play” all day and call it work… the absence of stress because they live life on their own terms… and none of them wake up miserable on a Monday morning wishing the day wasn’t a work day.

And, best of all, if you’re blogging and also can take reasonably quality photos (or videos), now it’s your turn.

Sure it means you’ll be working, but this kind of work will be FUN.

Whether the photography and video part(s) of it is meant to only complement your existing blogging business or is going to be an attempt on extra income alongside your blogging activities, it is sure worth remembering what you can do with photos or video.