Published by Jane Cirigliano , May 30th, 2017
An SSL certificate allows you to submit sensitive information securely over an encrypted internet connection. While SSL certificates have primarily been used for ecommerce websites in the past, recent Google algorithm updates are giving preference to companies who take security seriously.
Google's HTTPS ranking signal started with a low impact in early 2017. The search engine has indicated that the weight of security on rankings may increase in the future as Google wants to "encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."
Not only does having an SSL certificate help your search engine rankings, it also alleviates confusion following browser security updates. For example, Firefox and Chrome now give users security errors on any form they fill out on a non-secure site (any site without an HTTPS prefix). Filling out a lead generation form or even doing something as innocuous as logging into a webmail account on a server that doesn't use an SSL certificate now looks suspicious.
As internet users become more aware of security when submitting their personal information, SSL certificates will become necessary for successful lead generation campaigns. Trust is key to prospects providing their information through contact and content marketing lead generation forms. If prospects are concerned that their personal information could be intercepted or misused, they are less likely to share their information.
If you have noticed a decrease in your website leads or search engine rankings over the past few months, the lack of HTTPS/SSL on your website could be the culprit. And if you haven't experienced any negative effects of new security updates yet, take preventative action now.
To learn more about the latest trends in SEO and how you can improve your business's visibility, contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610.
To learn more about the latest trends in SEO and how you can improve your business's visibility, contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610.
Published by Russell Cooper, April 27th, 2017
If growth - driven by new products and services - were the natural state of business affairs, the economy would grow more than 2% per year. In fact, you might say that simple inflation of prices accounts for this level and real growth this last decade has been next to nil. In 2016, Robert Gordon’s monumental study, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, provided ample documentation of how most of the necessities, conveniences, and productivity enhancers of our modern life were invented and developed more than 70 years ago. Efforts since - with the exception of computing and media - have largely been just window dressing. Planes fly at the same speed they did in 1957.
My first, eye-opening encounter with the inability of your average business to invent, grow, and change was my involvement with an industrial retention association in Cleveland during the mid 2000s. This was a group of family businesses and smaller divisions of corporations - largely long established and employing 25-200 employees. There were no start-ups in the group. Many were single product or service firms. Sadly, most seemed a few generations removed from the inspiration and energy that created them. As a sizeable portion of these firms were experiencing declining fortunes at the time, the association organized workshops and group discussions to address growth issues; launching e-commerce, overseas expansion, new product development, or starting service arms. To my astonishment, the general consensus was to "wait out the recession and business levels will return to normal."
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. In the mid-1990s, I worked at Emerson Electric and participated in their growth planning cycle, which culminated each year with a one- or two-day growth conference for each division. Leading up to this, Engineering and Marketing teams would invest months investigating how to squeeze out new variations of existing products, or finding new applications for existing offerings. Given the time, effort, and results, it was taking a sledgehammer to a nail. But you damn well knew that growth beyond inflation levels was expected. In 30 years, I have rarely encountered such a commitment in the many businesses I have come to know. Most don’t have the discipline for it. Does yours?
In order to develop and launch new products and services, a firm must have ideas and ambitions. More precisely, the critical few individuals who innovate and lead within the firm must have these. Organizational vision and commitment to planning and marketing are also required, otherwise ideas and ambition cannot flourish.
There are a variety of approaches to achieve business growth through new products and service offerings. Many times, your ambitions are augmented by factors outside your control or knowledge. John Rockefeller had a superhuman fixation on making kerosene cheap and safe for the masses, in hopes of extending the hours of the day with light. He was hugely successful early on to be sure. But the success and wealth of Standard Oil would have been limited without the advent of the automobile and its insatiable thirst for gasoline some 30 years into these efforts. The readiness to address new opportunities was the greatest factor.
At other times, the larger growth may lay beyond your original scope for an idea.It was recently reported that tens of thousands of traditional retail stores - both independent and large national chains - will close this year and next. Do we really believe that Amazon had this in mind as a primary goal of its business 15 or 20 years ago? Its early business model was based on channel to market innovation, and it proved to be a wrecking ball for the likes of Borders and Barnes and Noble, not to mention the devastation visited upon local independent booksellers. In these early days of success, management consultants urged the firm to stay true to its niche and fundamentals and harvest the fruits of this innovation. Luckily for the future utility and convenience of the vast consuming public, once the concept was mastered, Amazon invested heavily in expanding this vision into new products and markets.
But innovation is not enough on its own. Gone are the days of the world beating a path to your door for a better product or service; the ever-shrinking global marketplace is too crowded and competitive. This is why OffWhite is increasingly emphasizing to its clients the importance of successfully launching new products and services. For 32 years, our firm has specialized in making complex and technical concepts more understandable. Where are such services more important than with introducing new products or reaching new markets?
In a series of blogs throughout this year, OffWhite will share its experiences, suggesting strategies and tactics that help to insure success, warn of common mistakes, obstacles and risks, and make light of how we can help you reach your goals for sustainable growth. For more information, Contact Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.
Published by Elizabeth Godfrey , March 7th, 2017
Even if you regularly download and read white papers, chances are you have not considered what makes a document a ‘white paper’ and not an article, technical bulletin or something else. As content marketing pieces, white papers can represent very different styles with some that are much more effective than others.
A good white paper is essentially a hybrid technical (or academic) marketing piece that is intended to educate the target audience. As a marketing piece, it should contain captivating subheadings that make the information simple to skim and lead the audience through the paper to the conclusion. The subheadings should lend to the overall structure of the paper by providing clear signposting that makes the paper easy to navigate and helps establish it as a valuable educational resource.
An Argument for Better Papers
All white papers are persuasive pieces, whether they aim to convince readers of a particular solution to a common industry problem or convey that the newest technology or research innovation offers the answers to their problems. The resolution represents the paper’s conclusion, and ‘soft sell.’ An effective white paper must be written with this intended argument in mind.
The Marketing Component
Unlike brochures and other marketing pieces, white papers should not contain overt selling as the primary goal is to educate readers. The soft sell in the conclusion allows the business or company to provide readers with a chance to learn more about the specific solution. It also typically contains a call to action for next steps. Any marketing in an effective white paper is considered ‘soft’ because it should not alienate readers or detract from the educational aspects of the paper.
Determining Your Audience
Who do you want to reach with your white paper? With the broad goal of a white paper established, one of the first steps for success is to consider who you hope to inform. In selecting your target audience, it is helpful to identify problems or needs your ideal reader may face so you can better map your solution. Targeting a broader audience, such as a specific industry, means a larger reach for your paper. This gives you a bigger impact on brand recognition and helps position your company as an authority on the subject. However, if your solution or goal for the paper is to close sales, you may want a more focused audience. Writing to the executive suite or to those with buying power is more effective in this case as you can specifically address the technical aspects that are most important to the specific group.
Word count ideally stems from the topic itself. In general, the goal is to find something that is Goldilocks approved – not too long, not too short but just right. The most beneficial white papers for readers are those that examine something new and support findings and claims with evidence. While the white paper is more of a hybrid document when executed effectively, it is still a marketing piece. It is therefore essential to remember the overarching goal, whether that is lead generation, closing the sale or establishing thought leadership. Your white paper should move readers through the content toward the bigger picture. To ensure they make it to the paper’s conclusion, however, you need to keep your readers’ interest. Holding an audience is much more difficult when the paper is very long.
Setting the Tone
Unlike a blog, white papers need to maintain a tone that conveys thought leadership and credibility. This does not mean the writing needs to be stuffy. In general, white papers should avoid first and second person language (I, we and you respectively) in order to maintain an appropriate tone. As with all technical writing, the content should strive for accessibility. Even papers that explore more in-depth, technical topics should written clearly and concisely.
To Byline or Not to Byline
Should my white paper list an author? The simple answer to this question is, it depends. Including a byline for a well-known industry expert can absolutely strengthen both the creditability and desirability of a white paper. If your business publishes white papers frequently, this can also help establish your team’s subject matter experts and generate a regular audience, making your paper more likely to be disbursed organically.
On the other side of this, attribution to a person, rather than the company in general, may strengthen the brand of the specific author as much as, or more than, the brand of your company. While not inherently negative, the risk of losing established thought leadership due to turnover is something every company should consider before deciding on attribution.
White papers are not new, but they also aren’t going anywhere. An effective white paper can make all the difference in the continued push to gain new leads and set your brand apart from the competition. They also benefit your company as much as they benefit your audience. White papers are a long-term investment that helps persuade potential customers to choose your company. They also educate your sales reps and give them a valuable tool to close the sale.
Published by Chris Hlubb , February 20th, 2017
For many of our clients, their web server doubles as their mail server. Regardless of if you are using a shared, private or dedicated server, most hosting companies do not place limitations on the amount of email any one account can have. While this sounds very inviting - especially if you tend to do a lot of work with email and need to keep your historic emails - the harsh reality is that, like any other file saved to your computer, server space is always finite.
POP vs. IMAP
When it comes to email setup for your programs such as Outlook, Mac Mail, etc., there are two types of setups: a POP account and an IMAP account. The major difference between the two setups is: a POP account is usually set up to download email off of the server to your computer and remove it from the mail server completely. That way, you have the email downloaded to your machine and it doesn't clog up your server. An IMAP account is like a mirror - it's a "reflection" of what emails you currently have on your mail server. One type isn't necessarily better than the other; it depends on how you want to manage your email.
Are you only using a computer at the office to access this account? A POP account may be the best solution for you. Or are you always on the go, checking your email on your office computer, your IPad, and your phone? You may need an IMAP account.
Mobile devices are just one reason why IMAP accounts have become a big deal over the last several years. IMAP is very helpful as you can view email on one device and then pick it back up on another. Plus, you only have to delete the email one time from any of these devices and it's gone everywhere. However, this is where many people get lulled into a false sense of security that they can continue to pile up email and not think anything more about it. You have to be diligent about managing the amount of email you have in your account if you choose to go with IMAP.
On more than one occasion, we have had to look into server issues for our clients that had to do with space problems. Your server needs "breathing room" to function at optimum performance. Between all of the functions that are going on behind the scenes, to the people who are accessing your website, to the space that is taken up by your web/email/etc. files, your server needs resources to carry out all of these actions.
The less space available on your server, the less space it has to carry out the necessary functions of keeping everything working in harmony. One time a client's website and email went down because they were basically at full server capacity. The main culprit? Of a 10 GB server, one email account had roughly 7.5 GB worth of email stored. Three quarters of their server was taken up by a single account - and it could have easily been prevented.
Stories likes these aren't every day occurrences, but they do happen. The whole point of this blog is to help keep your server from becoming one of these instances. I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from using an IMAP account. You just have to be smart about managing it.
If you do choose to use an IMAP account, either make sure you are regularly cleaning out email (and remember, junk email and trash email adds up to server space as well, so make sure you completely purge them out of your account), or download and backup your email every so often to a cloud based solution, computer, etc. You may also want to consider using an alternative for your email accounts by setting them up with a third-party vendor that works specifically with email, such as a company like Rackspace. You can also always go the route of adding more server space, if necessary.
If you choose to use a POP account, there are settings that will assist you in email server clean-up. While there are many different mail clients out there, one of the most commonly used is Outlook, and for purposes of this blog, I will be using it to explain how to avoid some of the pitfalls I outlined above with IMAP accounts. If you are using a different email client, it's very easy to Google your mail client and look up how and where to change your settings.
To begin with, when editing or setting up your email account, you want to click “File” in the top navigation. This will bring you to the Info section by default, with "Account Information" appearing in the right hand side of your page, as seen in the image below. Select your account from the drop down menu and click on the Account Settings button.
From here, you should now see the Account Settings popup, as the example below shows. Find your account in the list and double click on it.
This will bring up another popup box, which will have your setup information for your email account. This is where you have either your IMAP or POP settings. Since this is a POP account, click the button in the lower right that says "More Settings," as seen in the image below.
This will bring up the final poup box, Internet Email Settings. As seen in the image below, when this popup appears, you want to click on the tab that is labeled "Advanced." At the end of this box, there is a section labeled "Delivery." To make sure you are removing emails from the server with your POP account, you have two choices. First, you can uncheck the box next to "Leave a copy of messages on the server." This will automatically remove emails immediately when you download them to your computer or mobile device.
The alternative is to leave this box checked and make sure the box that says "Remove from server after 30 days" is also checked. You can change this number to any number of days, but 30 is usually the default. By setting your email up this way, you can still see your messages on the server with your other devices, but only for the amount of days that you select. Also, make sure the second item is checked as well, so that you delete any messages from the server that are purged from your trash folder.
Keeping these tips in mind will help your server run a bit smoother. And one more tip - as I've mentioned in past posts about changing your password, it's always a good idea to change your email password every so often to help thwart things like someone spamming your email. Happy emailing!
Published by Jane Cirigliano , January 31st, 2017
Growing your website's organic traffic is one of the best ways to increase your leads and sales over time. However, Googling your business and your target keywords, even if you only want to know if your website is ranking, can hurt your overall search engine rankings.
Read on to learn what happens if you do not Google responsibly (and what you can do to avoid inadvertently penalizing your website).
- Local Search Skews Your Results. Often, especially on mobile devices, businesses that are physically close to you will pop up higher in your search results. Googling your business from a mobile device can skew your understanding of where you truly rank in comparison to your competitors. Make sure that your business and all locations are listed with Google so your profile is present on local search results.
- Your Page Rank Suffers. If you Google your business and either don't click on anything, or even worse, click on your competitors' links, you are signaling to Google that your own page is not relevant. If your page has a low quality score, it moves lower in the rankings.
- Ad Scores Decrease, and You Pay More for AdWords. If your page rank decreases, any advertising you do with Google is affected. Bid rates on Google AdWords are dependent on several factors, including how relevant Google deems the landing page you direct your ad traffic to. The less relevant Google thinks your website is, the more you pay for your ads.
- Google Learns Context. As search engine algorithms grow smarter, they work to give searchers the most valuable answers to their search queries. Similar to Page Rank, if you Google a keyword that is important to your business, but you don't click on your company's page in the search results, you are communicating to Google that your website is not a good match for that keyword: that showing your page at the top of the search results is not valuable to searchers.
- Your Search Terms Don't Align with Your Customer's Language. When you focus on general product or service terms (i.e. hood instead of biological safety hood), or internal company jargon (i.e. BSC instead of biosafety cabinet), you run the risk of targeting keywords and phrases that your customers don't understand and therefore do not search. This is when you should consult Google. Use Google's tools to find out what actual visitors to your website searched and adjust the way you speak to your customers accordingly.
So how can you get an unbiased view of search engine results? Use this safe tool to find out where you rank without damaging your search reputation.
Google's safe search link allows you to test searches from desktop and mobile views, showing how the search results change for different devices. If you choose to click on a competitor's website to see what information Google values, it does not affect your page rank or your ad scores.
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