You are crazy if your Small Business is using Microsoft Windows

Sarasota Business Owners

(and you have not moved to Windows 10 and Office 365!)

I know, I know if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Well listen carefully ITS BROKE! Being a small business consultant provides me an opportunity to see the inside of many small businesses. I will tell you flat out just about every single one of them is some definition of controlled chaos (which is usually why I am there). Everyone is running on different hardware all bought at different times all running different versions of everything and they just don’t play nice with each other.

DON’T BE EMBARRASSED MOST SMALL BUSINESSES ARE DOING IT WRONG

I get how you got there. Every time your business grew you hired another person, added a new computer, etc. Years later your office is full of all kinds of different machines running different versions of Windows, probably two or three versions of Office and every anti-virus under the sun.

Sure, it would be nice to buy all the upgrades and get everyone running the same thing but that will cost thousands and take months to migrate everyone’s files and email. Its practically impossible to see any return on that investment. Plus, you’re not in business to be technology experts so you do the best you can and get things working good enough. At the time it was probably the right decision seeing your goal when you first start-up is to just stay in business!

But at some point you grow to where you can’t get out of your own way. Not too long ago owners had to have to make a major decision to invest an uncomfortable amount of capital to get their business to the next level. Often putting up thousands to rebuild their entire platform, hire a full time IT staff and budget even more for on going maintenance and upkeep was the standard. Most always these projects never stayed on budget nor on-time. But for the small business that is the old way. Now it all can be done quickly and cheaply.

GET YOUR HEAD INTO THE CLOUD

The new way is a complete redo. No more server hardware, no more backups, no more buying new versions of software, no more running out of disk space, no more headaches! With modernized desktops and devices everything moves to a secured centralized space on the internet so everything just simply integrates and removes all the pain points the “old way” created.

The best part is you no longer have to pay huge software fees up front. All the software you need to run a business is billed monthly just like Netflix! With Business 365 you can get Windows 10 (W10) and Office 365 (O365) which includes email for ~$20 mo per user and never ever have to upgrade or buy new software again. If you are already running W10 then you are looking a $5 to $12 per. You can have your entire office running the latest and greatest for probably less than a car payment!

IF YOU ARE NOT A HOSTING COMPANY AND STILL WASTE MONEY ON SERVERS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

But wait there is more! All your file storage is online so no more running out of hard-drive space or even worse putting your entire company on a $100 USB drive (that’s going to fail). You can get rid of your email server so no more hardware, failing hard-drives or backups! Outside of a few network devices all your infrastructure becomes instantly redundant and highly available with a few clicks of a mouse.

Modernizing your entire office will not take months or weeks but days. With built-in syncing services all your existing company files automatically get backed up to the cloud. Your apps stay updated with the latest features and all your user management-admin tools are centralized making managing your technology as simple as possible.

ITS SO SIMPLE TO GET ON MICROSOFT OFFICE 365 YOU CAN BE UP AND RUNNING IN JUST DAYS

Today there is no reason your desktop shouldn’t be as reliable as your office phone. We never wonder if there will be a dial tone when we go to make a call. It is just there. It works so well we take for granted the thousands of people and the billions of dollars of infrastructure it takes to make sure its there. Well Microsoft is the thousands of people and billions of infrastructure making your PC just work. Microsoft’s new strategy of “Integrated for Simplicity” means everything will just work.

EVERYONE BECOMES A HIGH PERFORMER

Think about this. How much work could your office put out if everything just worked? If your staff never lost files and had to redo them? What if you could share any file anywhere in the world just by typing in someone’s email address? What if you didn’t have to dig through email after email trying to find the latest version of a spreadsheet? What if you sales team had everything they needed with a few swipes of their thumb? What high value tasks could your IT person be doing if they didn’t have to deal with server maintenance and backups?

YOUR BUSINESS IS AVAILABLE AROUND THE CLOCK AND AROUND THE WORLD

Now that your business is on the cloud you can securely access everything from any computer online with a browser. As a business owner myself I know how hard it is to go on vacation…OK, stop laughing I know you never go on vacation. But let’s say you are away and your office calls freaking out because you forgot to give them the quote to close a huge deal. Just pull out your phone, login to your cloud and share the file. You can do it while walking to your connecting flight or enjoying your umbrella drink.

YOU HAVE TO BE CRAZY NOT TO BE DOING THIS

There are so many upsides to getting your business up on this modern desktop I could write for hours, but I know you don’t have hours and I know if you have read this far you get it. However, if you are they type that craves details check out the links down below.

In closing, I know the skeptics will think I am writing this because I am getting kickbacks from Microsoft but I don’t get a penny. The reality is I wrote this article because I just left a client site and they could not stop talking how “everything just works” and how happy they are that they can just focus on the business instead of putting out fires all the time. It’s days like this that reminded me why I love what I do. Nothing better than making IT painless.

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Top 6 Reasons Not to Trust a Top 10 Ranking List

6 Reasons not to trust top 10 list

I have been online longer than Google, Yahoo and Bing so to say I have seen it all and then some is accurate.  In college I would sit in front of the lab terminal and access my email account using a command line program called Pine and search for information on another one called Gopher.  At the time, the “internet” was basically for scholars and user friendly wasn’t even part of the dialect.  Stuff like page ranking and SEO didn’t even exist.

But for a small-town New Hampshire kid having the world at his fingertips was mind-blowing.  I was instantly hooked and have spent the last two decades looking for the next next.  Keeping up with the newest trends (good and bad) is just part of who I am and lately I have seen some that really make me wonder where the internet is going….

If you search anything these days the top results will always have some form of Top 10 list.  It might be 5 or 15, maybe even say the “Best” or “Greatest” but the idea is always the same. 

These ranking pages have exploded over the last few years due to search engines affinity to deem such a page useful to the user mostly because when they first started showing up they appeared to be genuine and provided the consumer value.  But like anything good on the internet it has become overridden with folks exploiting the system trying to make a buck.

It is sad to say that pretty much any ranking page you find out there these days are junk. These sites have two goals;  First, get a high ranking in search engine results on a certain keywords and phrases; Second, get you to visit their page and click a link that will generate revenue. 

Informing you about the product or service is nowhere in their agenda.  As a matter of fact many of these pages just a copy and paste right from the site they are promoting.  There is no commentary or analysis or a breakdown of the good and bad.  There is just the basic marketing polish found on the original site.

Here is what to watch out for when looking at ranking si

1.) Affiliate Marketing

So you find a top 10 site that has a clear list of products and services and the top one lists all the great reasons why it is number one.  Then right next to it in a big pretty button with “get more info” or “Click for Price” in bold letters.  These buttons are called CALL-TO-ACTIONS  or CTAs.

More often than not it is an Affiliate Marketer (AM).  Which is a “professional” marketing someone else’s goods and services for a commission.  An AM’s only loyalty is around the commission they get if you click the link they provide and it converts into a sale.

SO what do you think this does to the quality of their ranking list?  Well just ask yourself this; If an AM gets $5 per sale for one product and $8 for another which one do you think they will rank higher?

The catch with these commissions is the sale doesn’t have to be that day and many times it doesn’t even have to be that product.  As an example, you click an Amazon.com affiliate link and then leave that page only to find yourself on Amazon the next day to by something completely unrelated the AM gets a commission on that sale.

So all the motivation behind their rankings is most likely monetary and you can forget about  finding rich thoughtful feedback or some deep product research that requires hard work and insight. 

So, you basically find a horrible site that provides you no value.  It persuades to leave their site through an affiliate link and you reward them with a sale the following day having no idea it kicked them back a commission.  No wonder AM is a billion-dollar industry and more importantly why the internet is flooded with these Top [put your number here] pages.

The good news here is reputable companies require affiliates to identify themselves as such.  So check out the page, most likely on the very bottom in small font you will find a disclaimer. If you do understand you are not reading unbiased content and be cautious its only purpose is to persuade you into clicking an AM link.

2.) Clickbait

Sites make money by displaying advertising on their sites. They can be AM links or just straight up Click Ads.

When you come to a page full of Ads its hard not to argue the author’s only motivation all around the revenue they get paid per click or what is called PPC.

Their pages are not designed for the user to easily and quickly read the article maximizing the value to the reader but to maximize the ad space, the click thru’s and value to their bank account.

The classic overdone PPC sites are those that are almost impossible to read because so much stuff is loading and everything on the page keeps moving and stuff flies at you from all directions.  This of course is by design, they want you to accidently click an Ad as you navigate the page.  This not only tricks the user but it is also screwing over the advertiser because they are paying for bad clicks and traffic from users that never wanted to be there.

These sites are nothing less than annoying.  You can’t trust anything they write seeing half the time they are trying to bore you to death so you leave their page through one of their ads.  The entire page is just one piece of click bait and should not be encouraged.  So unless you stop clicking they are not going away anytime soon.

3.) Slide Shows and Galleries

This is arguably the most arduous page of the web.  Its right there with Fake News so it is not uncommon to see both together.  These sites are the worst of the worst and often take the Top [your number here] list to the extreme.

The top 50 places to [whatever] will be no less than 50 pages loaded full of advertising to get through.  They will even have “Next” buttons as Affiliate or Click-Throughs. Which drive me nuts.  You think you are going to the next slide but then you find yourself in the middle of pop-up-palooza!  They will throw flyout ads at you, imbed ads in between slides and the info on what that slide is even on the list is non-existent.  They are nothing but a time-thief and provide little to no value for the reader. 

If you find yourself on one of these sites and you don’t know the source just leave because all you are doing is setting a cookie that tells advertisers you’re a sucker for click bait.  Just stay away from slideshows.

4.) Pseudo Sites

Some ranking sites are written by the company selling one of the items on the list. But they do it on a site that appears to be someone other than themselves.  It is common practice for a product manager to deploy many sites with content about their product and work like hell to get them all ranked high and basically push the competition to the second page of search results. 

As the user you think you have found a bunch of different sources and after reading them you are impressed with the overall consensus across all these top sites and feel well informed to make a buying decision.  However, you have been duped! The product assessments on these pages are aligned because they were all created by the same marketing department!

Its sad, you think you are reading separate perspectives from unconnected sources however you just spent the majority of your morning in one big sales funnel.  If you don’t know who owns the site you really should question the validity of the information they present.  Always always know you source.

5.) Lead Generation Sites

Have you ever looked online for car insurance and found a “Top X List” that was covered in “get free quote” buttons, you read their rankings and are impressed about the offer promising to save you money so you decide to click one? 

Well I hope you read the fine print because there is a good chance your information was sent to EVERYONE on the list resulting in robo calls and junk mail.  On top of that your information gets sold over and over as someone “interested in car insurance” resulting in more calls and spam.  A site that seemed useful has now made the sound of your phone cringe-worthy and your inbox full of distractions and refuse.

6.) Fake Buying Guides

These are just another form of “Top 10” sites that are just as bad for all the same reasons.  They just use another important part of the search engines weighting calculation…  Age.  By putting the Year in the title it tells Google, Yahoo and Bing this list is relevant to NOW (or last year) so you should show it first.  Sites use this to exploit the system and give their pages an instant boost.  Most of the time these pages are recycled from the previous year.  I strongly suggest you stick to buying guides by reputable places like Consumer Reports and ConsumerSearch.com

To sum things up, AM and other types of passive income are all the rage so the internet is getting saturated with these pages. I get those that want to create an online stream of cash with the flexibility to work from anywhere whenever they want.  Unfortunately, there are many just looking for a quick buck and will stop at nothing to keep the clicks coming. 

So be an informed surfer.  Understand the motivation behind the info you are reading and be skeptical of all those pretty buttons and links that trigger that impulse to click. Only user behavior will change how these sites go about things. So if you’re sick of seeing these pages littering the front pages of your search pages don’t feed the frenzy by rewarding them with a visit.

Its Bad Businesses to Fall in Love with the Trees

Its Bad Business to Love Trees

it happens before you know it

Early in my career I took a job with a software company that built supply chain and marketing solutions.  Over the course of the next decade I worked with 100’s of companies, launched several multimillion-dollar solutions and rose in ranks, ultimately becoming one of their executives responsible for over 80% of the payroll and running every department outside of sales-marketing and finance. 

In the beginning we were like a start-up.  I was part of a handful of coders that did whatever it took to keep things running. Which included being mavericks and many all-nighters with lots of cold pizza and mountain dew.  Over the years we solidified our processes and established a sound way on how things should be done.

As the company grew the importance of not screwing up also grew.  Because of this we unknowingly became risk adverse and rarely wandered from our proven processes because one misstep impacted thousands.

At the time we didn’t realize, but change became a challenge.  We knew what worked and introducing something new was perceived as too risky and at the time it not only worked but was necessary as we earned the industry’s confidence.

It is easy to Fall in Love when you’re good at it

In software we use the term “tech stack”.  A technology stack is a collection of technologies that are proven to play nice with each other. For the most part they tend to work in layers, so they are visualized as a stack.   In a perfect world, you pick a tech stack and stay as loyal as you can to it.  From staffing to infrastructure to processes and functionality all decisions are determined or at the very least influenced by the stack.

In our early years, we were an exclusive Microsoft shop and a real good one at that.  I have worked with office floors full of software engineers from PhDs to Intel Fellows and I would pick working with this group over any of them.  What we did with .Net and a handful of PowerEdge Servers was beyond impressive.  I thought doing anything outside of our stack was crazy and for the longest time it was not a risk I was willing to take.

Love is blind (and makes you stupid)

With a new CEO there was a huge push to move towards some of the new tech stacks creating nothing less than my worst nightmare.   At the time it was painful even to consider and next to building software that ran on a Mac it was the one thing I swore I would never do.  For months I was resisting the idea and even had a letter of resignation in an unmarked envelope under my keyboard ready to hand to my new boss (CEO) the day he walked into my office and told me do it or else. 

About time you came to your senses

It was touch and go for a while.  My CEO’s frustration was high because he was new with fresh ideas and as an outsider with a completely different perspective he could see things none of us could.  Thankfully he stuck with me and after many conversations and working through everything I eventually began to see things in a different light.

His two most influential points were “You can’t improve without change” and “When you set your own limits you will never push yourself further than you think you can go“.  His fresh perspective on what we could be doing opened the possibility that I might be limiting our potential.  If we were going to go further than ever before maybe we did need to change.  So we did.

It was hard to believe

The result was one of the most innovative solutions of my twenty plus years. It transformed the company’s product line and smashed through many of the limitations the entire industry always battled.  When I presented our biggest client the very first version he was shocked and couldn’t believe what he had witnessed.  He required prove the solution was live and that I wasn’t using demo trickery and tomfoolery. 

On the 5 hour plane ride home I took the time to reflect on why I was so resistant.  In hindsight I was so in love with what we had been doing and how good we were at it the idea of change was not only nauseating but blinding. I was so attached I couldn’t see the forest through the trees and blindly set limitations.   But more importantly without the fresh perspective I would have never known and missed a huge opportunity.

All businesses need that perspective

If you run a business, you must be willing to accept the idea that you could be unknowingly creating limitations far below your company’s potential.  Avoid getting too attached and do not fall in love with a product or process. Get that outside perspective to keep things crisp and make sure you are not creating problems you are not set up to see.  

If you could work less and make more wouldn’t you want to do it?  If so, you are going to need to make some changes.  Have someone challenge everything you do.  I am sure you are doing most things exactly the way they should be done.  But if there are one or two things you could do better and you just can’t see it?   These could be the one or two things that could transform your business and take it to a whole new level.  A level you didn’t even know existed.

When was the last time you had a fresh set of eyes on your business?  How do you know you are not in love?

[addtoany]

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and explore what we can do together. Schedule your FREE pain free 20 minute call now.


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Stop a Catastrophe Don’t let your email get hacked!

Keep this guy from hacking your email

Let’s start with why it is really really really bad!

Say someone with a criminal mind had access to your inbox right now.  What if they did searches for “direct deposit”, “order number”,  “receipt” , “password, “account”, “autopay”, “invoice” or “payment”?

How easy would it be to know where you work, bank, shop, and play by looking in your inbox, sent and trash folders?  What could they figure out about your kids, their school, your parents, friends, coworkers etc.  What addresses would they have? Phone numbers? Schedules? Website links?

They might also have access to things like tax returns, account statements, medical records, resumes that have gone through your email account.  All of which have information that can be combined with other sources to piece together your life.

Once the hacker collects all this info they will try to access your web accounts with the password they just hacked. But if that doesn’t work they can leverage the “forgot my password” until they find one that sends the password instead of resetting it.  Then that password will get used on everything to see what other sites use it.  Hackers are tenacious and will chip away day after day undetected until they have everything they want.

When all else fails they can reset your passwords and login as you and hijack your entire online existence.  They can shut down balance alerts, start moving money around, send emails in your name asking your contacts to click on links that are back doors into their lives. They will create new accounts with your email and delete all the confirmations from your inbox so you have no idea these accounts exists and use them for as long as they need.  With your email and passwords, they can do pretty much do what they want.

Bottom-line, a criminal having access to your inbox is not good and opens you up for all kinds of headaches and embarrassment that can take years to recover.

So who is really at risk?

Anyone on gmail for business or office 365 are in a much better place than a small company that has their own email server because these services know they are a huge target and keep on the cutting edge to stay in front of the evil and do a great job.  A hacker getting access to your password with a brute force attack on your cloud account is probably low.

But, if you have your own email server and are not a Fortune 500 company with a multimillion dollar IT budget you are crazy to think you’re safe and you are not dealing with “if you get hacked” it’s “when you get hacked” which is why I don’t even deal with self-hosted email servers anymore (unless you are paying me to migrate them to the cloud).

Do I really need to worry about my email getting hacked? No one will guess my password.

So here is the deal, hackers don’t try and “guess” your password. (Ro)Bot Software does all the guessing using lists of every dictionary in the world with all the misspellings and possible combinations.  When they run this software against your system it is called a “Brute Force Attack” and can process millions of guesses per second which is why many website have password rules like must be 8-12 characters and contain numbers making it harder for these programs to cipher your password.

There are two main things that affect the strength of your password.  First one is LENGTH, second is COMPLEXITY.

So if you have a short simple password that can be found in a dictionary or a baby’s name book these bots can “guess” them almost INSTANTLY!

Why longer passwords are better.

A password with 8 characters has 218,340,105,584,896 or 628 combinations when using a mixture of numbers (10) and letters (52).  A password with 9 characters (629) has 13,537,086,546,263,552 combinations which is almost double with  13,318,746,440,678,656 more combinations just by just adding one character to your password. So it might seem like only one small addition but it makes an exponential difference.

However, don’t let these enormous numbers fool you.  If your password lacks complexity it still can easily get hacked!

Don’t use PASSWORDS use a PASSPHRASE!

When I first started using passwords I used my childhood dog’s name, “georgia“.  As the years past and password requirements grew it became “Georgia1” then “Georgia0ne” then up to the day I published this article it was the PHRASE “GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch“.

GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch is long, complex with lower case, upper case and a number.  I could have added a special character but a mixed case 20-character passphrase is pretty solid according to www.howsecureismypassword.net

Georgia will get hacked instantly
Georgia1 will take 2 days to crack
Georgia0ne will take 8 months to crack
GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch 558 QUADRILLION YEARS

A password that takes 558 quadrillion years to hack is virtually un-hackable (with today’s technology).

In Summary

Don’t use the same passwords for everything.  Make your passwords passphrases that are long and complex.  Change them often and protect your email passwords.  Your life might depend on it.

Build Trust – Build your Business – Develop a Writing Habit

With the relaunch of this site I have made an honest effort to write more.  It is not something I am comfortable with and the last thing I consider myself is a writer.  But I have been working in the customer service space for so long that I have come to the conclusion that there is only one true tool when it comes to creating a strong business relationship.  Trust.  I can not tell you how many times my relationship collateral is what closed a deal or saved a project.  Being able to tell someone “I got it”  and have them give a green-light is one of the highest complements.  But it only works if they trust you.

So as I embark on this new site I wanted to be a vehicle that built trust with those that visit by sharing who I am through writing.  It is proven that sharing your thoughts and ideas through writing is one of the most effective ways to let people know what you are all about.  My “style” is conversational at best which if you know me, I am a what you see is what you get kind of guy, so I can’t think of any better way to show the true me.

I often urge my clients to write and share their expertise so their customers can see their true professionalism.  However,  I am usually met with some level of resistance due to the time suck or “I am not a writer”.  Which I get because I used to say the same thing.   So when I came across this quick 5 minute read my first thought was,  “…where was this when I first started!”   – Gordon Lear LLC

An executive with the ability to communicate clearly through the written world can reap many benefits.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Writing is often seen as a creative task outside the realm of executives. After all, no executive has never been praised for her writing skills. While there have been a number of high-profile executives who have published bestselling books — Sheryl Sandberg being the best example — they are more the exception than the rule.

This is an unfortunate reality because we live in a content-driven world where more than 3 million blog posts are published every day. An executive with the ability to communicate clearly through the written world can reap many benefits, including more press interviews, speaking opportunities and strategic partnerships.

Executives, however, often lack the time to write. How could an executive find the time to write? By building a habit. Here’s how you can get started.

Do it first thing in the day.

In theory, you could write anytime you are in front of your computer. You could write when you are on a lunch break, in between meetings or after you come back from work. The best time you could use for writing, it turns out, is the morning.

The morning offers several benefits that can’t be found at other times of the day.

First and foremost, you have more energy to spend on a creative task like writing (assuming you sleep enough hours). Second, you are less stressed, which also liberates your mind to express itself more freely. Finally, you face no meetings, calls or emails at this time of the day.

If you combine a morning writing ritual with the next three tips, you will face little friction from your own mind or your surroundings (e.g., family, coworkers, etc.), letting you write without restrictions.

Do it for 30 minutes.

A habit shouldn’t take you more time than you can offer to it. Sure, writing for two hours could bring you greater rewards, but you’re not a professional writer with unlimited time. You need to make the most of your writing time.

I recommend 30 minutes as a modest time frame that will help you kick off your writing habit. Setting up a specific amount of time beforehand will help you enter a state of deep focus that an open time schedule won’t. What’s more, everyone in your organization (and even your family) will know you shouldn’t be disturbed.

You can use a 25-minutes Pomodoro if you like, but 30 minutes will probably fit better in your calendar and will give you more time to warm up your writing skills.

Focus on a strict length — 500 words.

With 30 minutes set up for writing, you want to crank out as many words as you can, regardless of its quality. A problem you will likely face, however, is the blank page — often cited as one of the main creativity blocks writers face.

To help you guide your energies, focus on writing not more than 500 words. By focusing on that number, you’re establishing a parameter of success; a KPI if you will.

What’s more, the seemingly small volume can compound to great success: If you write every day, at the end of your first month you will have written 15,000 words, the length of an average non-fiction book, or many blog posts.

Write what you know.

If you have gotten to a C-level position in any organization, you must have lots of experience and knowledge about your industry — exactly what you need to use when you write.

When you sit down to write then, write about what you know. Don’t reinvent the wheel or try to imitate Malcolm Gladwell. Write about the problems and challenges you face daily, the situations you observe and the lessons you learn from being on the trenches. After all, writing doesn’t ask for Pulitzer-level journalistic research or prose.

After a while, you can improve the content to focus on more complex subjects; when you are just getting started, however, start small by talking about everything you already know.

Don’t hold yourself up — be vulnerable.

As an executive, you must represent your organization with a professional attitude. This, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write like a robot. Your audience — potential customers, partners and journalists — wants to get to know you.

A good tip when you write is to think as if you were writing to a friend. Not only will this help lower your writing standards, which at first will help you break from the “blank page” spell mentioned above, but it will allow you to communicate in a personal way.

While you don’t want to say anything that can compromise your organization, you still want to express yourself freely, sharing your opinions, experiences and even failures.

The best part is, you will look much more relatable and real than most executives who hire ghostwriters.

This article was published here.

Page title optimization is the most overlooked aspect of SEO

SEO Expert - Google Analytics - Dashboard

Pay Attention to Page Title Length

Google will display 50-60 characters of a page title in the search results before cutting it off, so you should aim for page titles that are around 55 characters or less in length, including spaces.

The length of your page title can affect how it is presented in the SERP. If it’s too long, it’ll be truncated. If it’s too short, Google might decide not to show your page in the search results at all, or simply overwrite your title.

To be safe, make sure the most important or descriptive words in the keyword are towards the beginning so they’re less likely to get cut off. A good page title should be structured like this: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

Note that longer titles may work better for social sharing in some cases, and some titles are just naturally long. While it’s good to be mindful of how your titles appear in search results, there are no penalties for using a long title. Use your judgment, and think like a search engine user.

Write unique titles for every page

Every page on your website is unique and it should be treated as such. It’s important to have specific, descriptive titles for each page on your site. The Page title should reflect the individuality of each page. Unique titles help search engines understand that your content is unique and valuable, and also drive higher click-through rates.

Customize the page title on each page of your website so that they accurately describe what’s on that specific page. With 57% of B2B marketers stating that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative, won’t it be smart to ensure your business pages are seen and understood?

On the scale of hundreds or thousands of pages, it may seem impossible to craft a unique title for every page, but modern CMS and code-based templates should allow you to at least create data-driven, unique titles for almost every important page of your site.

Use your target keyword

Every page on your website should answer a question or provide valuable information someone is searching for. Your website will be more useful to searchers if it ranks in search for the right term – just when they’re looking for the information you provide. This is extremely important. A well-crafted title should include your target keyword. So for each page, you should have a target keyword (or a few) in mind.

Since Google’s algorithm uses the page title as one of the main ways to determine what a page is about, A good title helps both search engines and users understand what the page is about, and having your keywords in the title is a step towards that direction. That makes it clear to Google that this page is relevant for anyone searching for that specific term.

It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the title, but it is overkill to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. While there is no penalty built into Google’s algorithm for long titles, you might face challenges if you start stuffing your title full of keywords in a way that creates a bad user experience, such as: Buy shoes, Best shoes, Cheap shoes, shoes for Sale.

This kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look like spam to Google and to users.

Create titles for users and not search engines

This is also very crucial. Your titles should be interesting enough to catch and hold the attention of searchers. While page titles are very important to SEO, remember that your first goal is to attract clicks from well-targeted visitors who are likely to find your content valuable.

It’s important to think about the entire user experience when you’re creating your titles, in addition to optimization and keyword usage. The page title is a new visitor’s first interaction with your brand when they find it in a search result.  They should convey the most positive, important and accurate message possible.

Avoid vague descriptors like “Home” for your home page, or “Profile” for a specific person’s profile. Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search result listings.

Outsource your SEO auditing

Consistent SEO plays a vital role in helping you achieve your goals. But you can’t just spend a week dedicated to SEO and be done with it for the next three months and expect success. You need to actively track your progress adjust as required. An SEO company will offer you guidance in a constantly evolving industry with optimal strategies changing. Their sole purpose is to help you improve your visibility online.

An SEO company will help place keywords in your page titles to help Google rank your page, add well written, keyword rich copy to underperforming landing pages. These SEO professionals also provide a range of services, including auditing your site, developing a tailored SEO strategy, and implementing the tactics that will help your business rank for keywords and gain organic traffic through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Outsourcing to an SEO company will give your website the best possible chance of placing highly in search engine rankings and driving a higher volume of relevant traffic to your website. Within months of having your website SEO outsourced to the right people, you should find that your website’s traffic skyrockets.

Whether your aim is to optimize your page title or drive traffic to your website in order to increase your profits or your website’s popularity, ensuring your page titles are optimized put your site on the right lane!

This article was published here.

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How IT all started – Making IT Painless

I was with a client last week and he asked me how it all started. He really wanted to know how I developed my unique ability to quickly understand what the business needed and then just as fast translate it into a technical plan that was easily executed.

My First IT Project

In the early 90’s there was a new game called Fantasy Football, or at least it was new to me. We pretty much played touchdown leagues because we calculated everything by hand from Monday’s USA Today sports section. I didn’t realize it at the time but my passion for sports introduced me to the rest of my professional life . . . computers.

My story isn’t like most computer guys. I didn’t start by taking things apart or building machines in the garage. I wasn’t even a gamer. I started as a word processing user.

My first computer was an IBM PS/1 that I bought at the now defunct Montgomery Wards, so that I could have spellcheck when I wrote my papers in college. It was a modern convenience that would quickly consume all my time and take me places I would have never thought I could reach.

I became the Data Guy

Before I knew it (and between homework assignments), I was building workbooks in Microsoft Works and calculating all the fantasy football points for the entire league This saved everyone hours and hours of painstaking work. Before long I was able to run dozens of these leagues with very little effort and my reputation as the “data guy” was born.

By the mid 90’s, I was beginning to use my schooling and passion for making things easier with computers and wrote some simple menu systems for DOS based point of sale systems. It wasn’t much, but it was the first time I used my skills and got paid. It was a turning point for me and made a career in computers seem obtainable.

I am the glue that keeps things together

After several years studying how to code, I moved on to network engineering where for two years I learned how to put more than one computer together and get them securely working on the same tasks. This, added to my software development and business acumen became the launching pad for my career. I was able to sit in a room with the a business unit, software developers and the IT guys and totally get what everyone was saying. But the true value came when I could easily see when one of the groups was not on the same page and I had the soft skills to quickly remove the confusion and right the ship. I quickly became the glue that made all these disjointed groups work together, which quickly moved me through the ranks.

Getting to work with the best

Over the years, I have worked on some incredible projects with amazing people. I have worked with fellows and executives from Stanford, Intel, GoDaddy, Dell, UNFI, Cardinal Health, Booz Allen Hamilton, Arthur Andersen, SAP, Siebel, Sage, SugarCRM, SalesForce, and TASER International to name a few. I also have had the pleasure of working with dozens of small business owners in retail, grocery, construction, manufacturing, machine shops, restaurants, sports clubs, nonprofits, HOAs, real estate, ecommerce, commercial diving, and many other industries.

To this day, I continue to do what I did during the early day of Fantasy Football. Take a painful task and make it painless. I have hundreds of contacts and colleagues at my disposal. So, when a company works with me they get my years of experience and all the expertise I have collected and am connected to around the world. I always work with less than five clients so I can focus and my availability can remain flexible.

I am originally from New England and moved to Sarasota in 1996. I love baseball, fishing and anything outdoors. I have been married for 25 years, have a teenage son that attends Pine View School for the Gifted and Swims for the National and State Champions, Sarasota Sharks.

If you are not sure about hiring a consultant, my favorite thing to do is to sit down with an owner or executive officer and see if I can help. (Especially over a beer or cup of coffee.)

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How to get your Staff to Think like Entrepreneurs

3 Ways to Encourage Your Staff to Think Like Entrepreneurs was a guest post by Miles Jennings that was originally posted on Entrepreneur and made me think about what I usually find in a company where things seem to be run down.  Many times owners of small businesses started a company because they had a skill that they could use to earn money but many times they lack the skills on how to foster a strong workplace.  For the most part most owners I work with are good to their employees but the tend to treat them more like their children than a workforce.  Micromanagement and helicopter supervisions tends to be the downfall. Owners are wanting more and employees are reluctant to do anything outside the box.  I agree with Miles three things but I would also let your staff become free thinkers and make sure they know it is OK to fail.  You want your workforce to be out on the edge trying to squeeze everything they can out of the day.  If they are always worried about what will happen of they screw up they will never come close to their potential and neither will your business – Gordon

Start by challenging everything.

5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
More and more, we are hearing the concept of intrapreneurship within firms. I’ve talked before about how encouraging entrepreneurial thinking can start early, even with your kids, and what benefits can accrue for them and for all of us. In this article, I want to offer three ways to program entrepreneurial thinking in your staff to capture those benefits for your firm.

Challenge everything.

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” — Robert Kennedy paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw
Entrepreneurs instinctively question processes and the status quo. They aren’t being combative or belligerent. They just don’t have the feature installed in their brains that prevents them from asking why. This feature can be uninstalled in the brains of your employees by simply giving them permission to ask why and making sure that your management team removes the corresponding defensiveness when a question is asked. Make sure it’s clear that “that’s how it’s always been done” is acceptable as an answer, but only as the means to begin a conversation as opposed to a strategy to end it.
Encouraging this type of thinking — “design thinking” that is focused on solutions and action as opposed to aimless brainstorming — encourages more circulation of ideas from the bottom to the top, as opposed to traditional top-down only communication. If it’s clear that anyone can simply ask why things are done a certain way without fear of reprisal, and even propose a potentially better way, employees will find their opinions and thoughts to be even more valuable.

Network.

Podcast host Jordan Harbinger has a simple strategy that turns what most people think of networking on its head. Each week he tries to introduce two people in his network who didn’t know each other previously. The introduction could be related to business, but sometimes it’s just two people who like a particular TV show or board game, or perhaps a vacation destination or sport. Many people associate networking with after-hours meetups where people essentially throw business cards at each other and pitch complete strangers on their latest projects. But networking doesn’t need to be so transactional.  In fact, you should encourage your employees to reprogram the concept of networking in their minds to exclude transactions completely.
Harbinger’s phrase for a more sustainable way of networking is “always be giving.” By encouraging your employees to network with each other and connect outside of work, not just socially, but in regards to side hustles or passion projects, you can help them build the rich interconnective tissue that most entrepreneurs have had to build by necessity, not just by choice. You can encourage your staff to take opportunities each week to introduce colleagues from the company to those in their own personal networks that share an interest or passion. Many entrepreneurs consider their networks one of the most valuable parts of their arsenal, and encouraging employees to network — without counting the cost — will give them that enduring and rewarding feeling of connecting others.

Encourage autonomy.

Southwest Airlines is well-known for its level of respect and collaboration between management and staff. That flows from a well-known policy of empowerment. Sometimes this leads to great publicity when someone tweets or writes about a story in which Southwest staff really made their travel special. But sometimes customers disagree, and there have been some cases in which the way Southwest handled a customer service situation was criticized. What has been key to the success of Southwest’s policy of empowerment is backing up the words with actions. When the stories are good, Southwest doesn’t try to take credit for the thoughtfulness of their employees, and if the stories are bad — which happens much less often — they don’t throw their employees under the bus (or airplane) and may concede that the situation “could have been handled differently.” But empowering employees means trusting them, and when people are given autonomy, they often rise to the occasion.
On a much smaller scale than an airline, Tim Ferriss documented in The Four Hour Workweek that he empowered his employees at a nutritional supplement company to make customer service decisions up to $200 without approval from him. While Ferriss was looking to streamline his day and remove tasks from his to-do list, the more important effect was creating autonomous employees who were then able to offer tweaks to the business that could increase profitability and process with much less friction and process.

Final thoughts.

There is a never-ending debate between “born with it” or “learned behavior” when it comes to entrepreneurship. I won’t wade too deep into that debate today, but it’s clear that while entrepreneurs tend to consistently think and act in certain ways, it doesn’t mean that non-entrepreneurs can’t emulate those behaviors to everyone’s benefit. By taking the lead in encouraging your staff to think entrepreneurially, you’ll not just differentiate your company as a challenging and engaging place to work, but you’re likely to birth great innovations from within your own firm instead of reading about how other firms came up with them first.
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Put Your Team’s Productivity Into Overdrive

Get More Done with Less

Ever heard of the Japanese concept of ‘Kanban’? It might really help your business.

I pulled this article from Entrepreneur news feed.  Don’t get caught up in the details but focus on the theory behind them.  Regardless what your company does these processes can be executed at any level.  As a matter of fact it was all done on pen and paper before all of this computer stuff started coming around. – Gordon Lear LLC

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A typical day in the life of a professional team consists of an endless number of to-dos. Unless there’s a plan in place to tackle them, the items on the checklist pile up fast.

We are decades into the digitization of the world, but there still continue to be Luddites who would rather use pen and paper to make lists than use apps on their small-screen phones. Pen and paper? More reliable, these people believe.

But this approach cannot work in a company set-up where teams need to collaborate across offices and geographical locations, and where members need lists to be centralized so they can ascertain the status of tasks. Such centralization ability is especially helpful for big projects involving multiple players and tasks within tasks.

That’s where the right kind of project management software becomes essential: It can prevent confusion and improve productivity. Here are some simple but effective ways to help your team remain on top of the workflow.

There is a lot of shiny words below trying to explain a simple concept.  Kanban is just a big board (wall / whiteboard) with a bunch of “to-dos”.  Think sticky notes.  But the sticky notes are color coded based on priority and each person has a row to stick their notes in the to-do, doing, and done columns. I have found this to be an effective way to plan and track any project.  I have been using this type of process for years and it has never failed me. – Gordon Lear LLC

1. Kanban board apps for greater control

The meaning behind the concept known as “Kanban” becomes clear when you realize that the word literally translates from Japanese to signboard or billboard.

Yes, a billboard. A message spelled out in big, bold letters so that it cannot be missed.

Kanban board apps rely on their clever structure/software rather than size and flashy neon signs to help teams set up and execute systematic workflows. The underlying principle, however, remains the same: Messages are laid out in a way that makes it hard to miss those important to-dos.

While many to-do list apps have their place and a deservedly dedicated following, they might be somewhat flat in certain situations. Depending on the apps you use, they might  lack the ability to establish hierarchy; and they might present no way to intricately detail a task mentioned on the list.

A Kanban board, in contrast, helps users visualize workflow by splitting tasks into color-coded lanes that stand for simple and complex processes. Think of these as colorful digital sticky notes laid out on a screen with appropriate titles.

Quire implements the concept of the Kanban board and combines it with structured to-do lists to give companies ultimate control on workflow organization. It lets you break down big ideas into small chunks to create nested to-do lists and makes use of a Kanban board to color-code and visualize these steps.

From within the nested to-do lists, users can switch to the Kanban board to track progress and/or execute tasks, all from one place.

Other notable Kanban apps include the ever popular Asana, Github and Trello. Trello, in fact, may just have popularized the whole Kanban concept with its lean interface that requires almost no learning.

Smartly designed Kanban-board apps help teams streamline their work, track progress and spot obstacles as they arise. This promotes productivity, transparency and accountability.

Everyone has a To Do list and I am not sold you need an APP that is just for a To Do.  But I think this article misses the biggest productivity issue when it comes to do list.  Choosing what to keep off them!  I  build what I call a MUST DO list!  Keeping track of everything is one thing,  but knowing what are the high value tasks and which ones to let go are the difference between getting big things done and having trouble getting out of you own way.  Figuring out what NOT to do is just as important ask keeping track of what you MUST DO – Gordon Lear LLC

2. Invest in the right to-do list app for your team

Sometimes, especially if you are just starting out, a simple to-do list app is all you need. You don’t need a full-fledged project management tool, just  an effective checklist app that simplifies task management for your employees. The latter has its advantages; as a long-time user of Google Keep, my reliance on the app means I can’t go a single day without using it.

In an office setup, however, you need something more professional. We have many excellent choices in this field to help users organize their tasks and navigate through busy days and projects.

For instance, you can assign priorities, delegate tasks and set reminders with Todoist.

Any.do, meanwhile,  is a beautifully designed app that goes beyond being a barebones to-do tool and lets users set daily reminders in the form of push notifications. Users can also make voice entries, and drag and drop and swipe to complete tasks.

OneNote, which is offered as part of Microsoft Office 365 suite, is an excellent tool for task management. In its entirety there’s a lot this software helps small businesses with. But it can also be used as a checklist app on the phone.

Then there’s Evernote, the darling of all note-takers. The only problem I have with it is that it is very restrictive unless you purchase a premium plan.

All of these tools have collaborative features and integrate with other popular tools. Find the one best suited for your purpose.

Mind mapping isn’t a new thing but it sounds like a futuristic CIA spook concept to me. But all it really means is to take all that stuff that speeds through your head while you are trying to fall asleep at night and document it so you are not so overwhelmed.   Being able to see it all laid out allows you to see any gaps or opportunities that might not have been so obvious while it was a mashed up stealing your Z’s.  However, I am not sold on all these apps, I think there is a place for them, but not so sure it is at the core of the solution.  My fingers are not even close to being as fast as my head so this is where I go old school with a whiteboard. I can fill up four walls in about 10 minutes.  Of course I take pics with my phone and upload to OneNote so it still all goes digital. – Gordon Lear LLC 

3. Use mind maps to boost creativity

It would be reductive to say that a mind map is essentially multiple to-do lists in one. The reason: A mind map is so much more than that.

It’s a detailed drawing that allows users’ creativity to flow. It’s an excellent brainstorming tool, and it’s something I highly recommend all businesses invest in. Use it to start the conception journey for a project and see your productivity jump. Not just your productivity, but also the quality of your ideas.

With the right kind of mind-mapping tool, teams can visualize complex tasks in great detail, zero in on the gaps, see obstacles and predict outcomes that might otherwise be easy to miss.

MindMeister, Lucidchart and XMind are some of the top tools in this space. Their collaborative properties allow virtual teams to work together to create magic.

While smart time management is at the heart of productivity, the right tools can prove to be of immense value. If something doesn’t click, it’s a simple matter of switching software until you find which works. The range of tools in the market means that no business, no matter its size, need suffer a dip in productivity because of chaotic task management.

All three of these processes have been trending way up for years and there is a reason for it.  They work!   You don’t need to bring in new apps to apply some of these proven productivity boosters.   If you think improving your team production is a good idea for your company let me know.  I can help you with the learning curve and save you some headaches by showing you what works and what does not.- Gordon Lear LLC

The original article was published here.

What makes IT Happen?

Need a new IT guy

Your IT guy should understand your business

MOVE! Back in the 1990s when I was a wet behind the ears help desk tech working for the pocket protector punch card IT expert the culture definitely had an elitist attitude.  Back then there were all the smart IT guys and all the stupid users. They would show up at your desk speak a language of alphabet soup and make remarks that would be demeaning, patronizing and now be considered pretty hostile. Because of this Nick Burns was born.

Do not put up with Nick Burns

Jimmy nailed it and the skit was an instant classic because anyone that worked in an office knew at least one Nick Burns.  Furthermore, I can not tell you how many guys like this I worked with because there were too many to count. What I can tell you is that I was never that guy. Also, I did not become an IT guy like most others and actually got into computers by accident.

When I was in college there was no “online registration” and we had to stand in huge lines waiting to get our hands on these giant reams of “green-bar” paper reports. Due to the fact I was a freshman, undeclared and not an athlete  I pretty much got to pick last. It took forever and when I finally got to registering for my last class I needed an elective and the pickings where slim.  However, by chance I stumbled across a class labeled “Intro to Comput”. PERFECT! Intro to Computers! This would totally give me a leg up on writing papers if I knew how to use a computer.

Blah, Blah Blah

The first day of class was something I will never forget. The class was small. Only about 20 students (all male) and they all looked exactly like a room full of  nerds would look in 1991. The professor had the pocket protector, matching coke bottle glasses and the first thing he said was, “Welcome to the Introduction of Computer Programming!”

Wait, what. Just as I was about to raise my hand he then says, “Anyone who was stupid enough to think this was Intro to Computers come on up and get a drop slip” and at the very moment half the class turns around and looks at me. So what do I do? I turn around and look at the guy behind me because there was no way I was going to give them the satisfaction of letting them know I was the stupid one he was talking about. But most importantly, I have never fogotten that sinking feeling I had that day and every day after  when some jerk of a computer guy talked down to me trying to impress me will his geek speak talking about stuff like his Mt-32 sound cards, megabytes and PCI buses, Blah, Blah, Blah…

Might be time to rethink things

I knew back then that I would never be that guy. Further more I didn’t know it then, but not wanting to conform to the computer guy stereotype would make me stand out during my career in corporate IT.

So, I made it a point to talk in everyday business terms and try to relate technical solutions and strategies with everyday terminology that everyone could understand. Over two decades of making sure I didn’t make anyone feel stupid when it came to technology was something I to pride in doing.

Today I am known for keeping things simple and painless while delivering superior results. Nick Burns is not today’s IT guy. If you have a Nick Burns it maybe time to rethink things.

IT needs to understand business

Today, the IT guys with the most value have a strong understanding of business. Sales, Marketing, and Leadership are among their talents. The capability to hear a business problem and apply a technical solution is what puts them far ahead of everyone else. Their ability to communicate, build teams, and find value in everyone are just more traits you should be demanding.

Of course many Nick Burns are still out there but they shouldn’t be on your payroll.Your IT guy should understand your business. Think big picture. Be a visionary, an innovator. They should inspire those around them and when it is all said and done they just Make IT Happen.

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