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Five Reasons Emails are better than Phone Calls

Emails are better than phone callsIn the initial phase of designing a website for a client, it is very important for me to make a connection via a quick phone call to that person. Even if it is just to confirm that there is a real person behind my email, this initial phone call is often the “closer” on the deal and we can start doing business.

Beyond this however, I am real advocate of email only business. I find that phone calls are often unnecessary, cause disruption to the work flow of business in general and eat away at time that could easily be used more efficiently.

Here are five reasons why email HAS to be the communication line of choice when working with any type of business.

#1 You can’t review a phone call before you have it

Phone calls are often spur of the moment. You can’t look over what you are going to say during a conversation – it just happens. And, as with spur of the moment events, things can be skipped, left out or forgotten completely. This will often to a second, time consuming phone call.

With emails, you can type your thoughts and views quickly, review them and edit before clicking the SEND button. If something is forgotten, it takes less than a few seconds to quickly shoot out a second email however this is less likely to be needed as you have already reviewed the content of the first! Time saved!

#2 It’s hard to set aside time for phone calls

Unless you have a secretary with an iron clad policy to follow (no phone calls between certain hours), you invariably are going to have phone calls dotted throughout your day. Just you are just getting “into the flow” of a new project or work assignment then, bang, in comes that phone call. It takes you away from that important work, breaks your concentration and, when the call is finished, you have to get back into the zone, if possible.

Most efficient email users set aside a portion of their day to use specifically for the purposes of email. They know that, for example, between the hours of 8.00am – 9.00am the emails will be looked at and the correspondence for the day will be taken of – free of interruption.

#3 Emails are easier to focus on the point (no unnecessary small talk)

Phone calls are always filled with some small talk (how’s the family, did you watch the game, great weather we’re having) just to keep the conversation at a friendly level. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, this type of talk is generally reserved for lunchtimes and outside of work hours. It slows productivity and breaks the work flow of the day.

With an email, you can start with curt greeting and launch straight into what needs to be said. No small talk, just action.

#4 You can’t attach anything to a phone call

Have you noticed that very few businesses are utilising the fax machine these days? Some are still holding onto this archaic, out-dated piece of technology but most have realised if you want get that document, file, photo, image or form to its intended recipient, there is no substitute to the prompt delivery of an email attachment. Enough said.

#5 Phone calls can interruption to the work flow of a day

As already pointed out, the main factor against the use of a phone call in favour of an email is the sheer interruption that it can cause to a day. Some people can handle the constant flow of calls (read one of Donald Trump’s books to see how many he fields in a day – moderated by a team of assistants) but most business people need to focus on the work that needs to be done. Scheduled email times and less phone calls will allow them to do just that.

Of course, I will be the first to admit that if you are dealing anyone who is not “on top” of their email then a phone call must be the way to go. Personally, I subscribe to the GTD methods of organisation and this helps me to keep my inbox at zero. It only takes few minutes a day (which I set aside) to answer emails, reply and sort other items into actionable folders.

Are you an advocate of emails or do you prefer to connect and communicate through phone calls? Let me know using the comment section below and start a dialog on the benefits of both.

Five Steps to Spam Freedom

Spam FreedomDespite all the protection in the world, Spam still appears in our email inboxes every day of the year. It’s annoying, intrusive and pointless. I cannot remember a single instance where I have seen an item of Spam and said “Wow! I really must buy something from this business.” In my mind, any business that resorts to “advertising” via Spam deserves no customers at all.

All lot of spam can be traced directly from your website to your email because these two items are often interlinked for obvious reasons. The Catch-22 is – we need our websites AND we need people to be able to contact us via our website. Luckily, with a few simple precautions, your website can be made (almost) spam-free. Here’s five tips that work for us at Rusty Mango Design:

1.       Keep all your frameworks and plug-ins “up to date”

If your website runs on the WordPress framework or something similar, there are regular updates that you must be installing. These updates fix known issues in the system and often address any identified security problems.

To install these updates, simply find the UPDATES button on the main Dashboard (in WordPress, at the very top of the screen – other systems have something similar) and update any components that are listed on the page. Note:  It is always wise to backup your site before applying any updates to your system.

2.       Disguise your email if you must display it on a page.

Spambots, the automated “robots” used by spammers to trawl the internet, have been designed to seek out email addresses from business websites to add to their databases. To avoid your email address being used, you can disguise your email address inside the code of the website (you may need your designer to do this).

Simply substitute the @ symbol for its code equivalent (@) in your code. Your email address will look exactly the same on the site however the Spambots will see something totally different and ignore it completely!

3.       Use a high quality Spam filter in your CMS

Most savvy computer users have a spam filter attached to their email program to snag any of the nasties trying to slip by. These filters can also be installed on your Content Management System to prevent Spam comments and emails being sent to/from your site.

Two of the best I have found for WordPress are Spam-Free WordPress and the generically installed Askimet. Be warned that Askimet is only free to personal bloggers – for a business site, you will need to subscribe with a monthly payment. Spam-Free WordPress is completely free and currently the install of my choice – it does a great job.

4.       Include a “honeypot” on your contact form

A honeypot is an invisible field inside your contact forms.  Cleverly written, Spambots are designed to fill any fields that you have on your forms and submit them. With a honeypot, the Spambot will complete an invisible field by default (a human can’t see it on screen and therefore can’t fill it out) and your CMS will recognise this as an act of Spam. Bang! Stopped at the first gate! Simple but effective.

5.       Alter your .htaccess file to block continued spammers

This is a system file that is loaded from your server when anyone visits your site and controls some of the site configuration. Certain codes can be included in the .htaccess file to help prevent spam and malicious attacks but as it is a V.I.P. file, you’d best leave the coding of it to your web developer.

In the worst case scenario, rather than just receiving Spam, it can actually be coming OUT of your website, addressed to others from you! In this situation, people around the world will receive spam emails FROM your email address – not a good image for any business.

This nasty attack is called “Spamvertising” and is caused by an actual security breach (hack) into your web server.

The number one way to prevent this sort of hack is to keep whatever framework your site is built on up-to-date with the latest updates and patches. The programmers who create these frameworks are generally at the top of their game and will be acutely aware of anything (or anyone) attacking their systems.

Do you have a spam problem? A new client approached me last week with a significant spam problem – over 50 emails a days from their website’s contact forms. Using the five simple tips above, I have reduced their spam back to a much more manageable level (less than one or two a day), for which they are very thankful.

Of course, no system will be foolproof but with a few simple precautions, a major Spam problem can be reduced to no problem at all.

Five Essential SEO items that you can’t neglect

Five Basic SEO EssentialsAs you may be aware, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is crucial to the success of your website. Even if you have the most effective, well-designed and comprehensive website in the business, it won’t amount to anything if it can’t be found on major search engines. The statistics below support that if your site isn’t on that all important first page of results, your website could be practically invisible to most internet users.  In monopoly terms, the first page of Google is Mayfair and Park Lane, anything else is Old Kent Road.

Statistics courtesy of Chitika – Online Advertising Network

  • #1 in a Google search gets 32% of all the clicks.
  • #2 in a Google search gets 17% of all the clicks.
  • #3 in a Google search gets 11% of all the clicks.
  • 92 out of every 100 people who search on the internet do not go past the first page of their Google search.

Small business proprietors often hand over the reins of their SEO to outside agencies to take care of, some of which are expensive and over-rated. What these business owners don’t realise is that there is a lot that can be done without any outside help at all. In this post, we will look the essential items that must be attended to for successful Search Engine Optimisation.

Note #1: For the tips below, it is assumed that you have access to your site with a Content Management System. If you don’t, then you are already behind the times. Upgrade that site today!

Note#2: For WordPress owners, make sure you have Yoast SEO or All-In-One SEO installed in your plug-in. For other CMS, do a Google search and find out the equivalent for your system. There are dozens of options.

#1 Page Content

As has been discussed in previous Rusty Mango blogs, you must fill your pages with useful, appropriate and high-quality content.  The whole purpose of your site is to provide a service to your clients and prospects. Don’t lose site of that goal! To boost your SEO, you need a number of inbound links (people linking to you) and this won’t happen without content that is helpful and valuable to your visitors.

#2 – Page URL

This is actually name of the page that is used in the address bar of the web browser. If at all possible, use a couple of keywords in the URL that globally describe the content of the page. Don’t use spaces or underscores as these can confuse the Google bots, instead use hyphens to separate words.

If you are a WordPress CMS user, check your permalinks in the Settings section of your dashboard for this item.

#3 – Title Tags

A title tag is the small snippet of information that gets displayed at the top of a web browser. For your site, use your SEO plug-in (see above) and ensure that each and every page (and post) that you create has a relevant title tag that includes keywords from the text on the page.

#4 – Image ALT Tags

In the “olden” days, ALT tags (the text that pops up when floating a cursor over an image) were used primarily to help visually impaired users of the web. These days, in additions to this important role they still play; ALT tags can be used to boost SEO by including keywords in them once again.

Are you starting to see a theme here? KEYWORDS are everything to SEO!!

#5 Keyword Overuse!

Despite what I have “pushed” throughout this post, Google will apply penalties if the keywords you use override your content. This is to prevent the brazen old practice of loading a page to the brim with visible and non-visible keywords. Nowadays, the content relevancy has been added into the Google page ranking algorithm and key-words must only make up between 5-7% of the overall page information.

Conclusion

Once you take care of the above, you’ll need to wait patiently for Google to re-index your site so that you can see the benefits of your efforts. If you don’t get the results that you want, look over the list again, check your site statistics and ensure that you are using the terminology of your potential clients. The question to ask is – What are they typing into Google to find you?

 

 

 

 

Social Media finally shows it’s heart!

After the events of the past week here in Australia, I’ve decided to take a step away from web marketing for this week’s blog. In fact, there’s real no takeaway for small business at all. This post is however about the way that Social Media has allowed us to connect with and support each other in one of the saddest days in recent times.

Social media has been bashed by many critics for its detriments and the way it has been used to bully and harass but the tragic passing of young cricket player, Phillip Hughes,  last week has finally brought to the fore that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others can be used for so much more.

Very few people could have missed the news of the tragic accident at the Sydney Cricket Ground that has led to the death of one of Australia’s most promising young sportsmen. This single event has affected every day people from all walks of life and not just Australians, thousands from around the world have joined us in mourning one of our own. No-one can quite pinpoint why – was it because this young man died playing one of nation’s favourite games? Was it because he was so young and so promising? Or was it because of the nature of Phillip Hughes himself – so cheerful, uplifting and unassuming? Whilst we can’t understand why this event has driven so deeply into our hearts, we have shown that we stand united in comradery for Phillip, his family, friends and the man at the other end of the pitch, young bowler Sean Abbott.

This show of unity really began shortly after the passing of Phillip Hughes was announced through regular media. Tweets and posts started to appear with the hash tag #63notout. Images of Phillip in his baggy green cap (number 408) began to circulate through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Baggy Green #408But a real phenomenon really began when Sydney man Paul Taylor decided to put his cricket bat at the front door of his house, took a photo of it then sent it out on Facebook with the hash tag #putoutyourbats. Within minutes, this tag took hold and soon everyday Australians were heading out to their backyards, grabbing their trusty willows and putting them out the front to show a rare form of condolences for the passing of Phillip Hughes.

Soon, it wasn’t just just Australians taking part – the movement spread across the world. From Pakistan to England and beyond, individuals, sporting clubs and even businesses were putting their bats out. Even Google placed a simple cartoon cricket bat onto their main search page in Australia.

It was through this simple gesture, people were allowed to connect with what had happened and really take part in an amazing tribute to an amazing young man. I actually got a lump in my throat as I put the bat out the front of my house and uploaded the image of it to Facebook.  The family of Phillip Hughes, despite the terrible loss they have suffered, must be completely blown away by the outpouring of support for them and the young fast bowler, Sean Abbott must know that we have got his back and that no one blames him for what was a simple, unfortunate accident.

This whole outpouring of support not only allowed us to show support for the family and friends of Phillip Hughes but it also banded “us aussies” together in a way that has not been seen before. And none of it would have been possible without the power of Social Media – finally being used for something truly amazing.

 

Rusty Mango Design

Rusty Mango Design