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Business Intelligence

Empowering Your Organization With Business Intelligence

In the age of information technology, the ability to use data and information in real time can dictate how organizations successfully work, communicate and collaborate. Today the amount of information being generated every second is massive. No matter your business’ industry or size, everyone has access to quick information. However, the real power behind making rational business decisions does not lie in the petabytes of data and information itself but rather in making sense of the big data. This is where business intelligence tools can give you a competitive advantage.

What is Business Intelligence?

Currently the big buzzword in the business landscape is business intelligence but what exactly does it mean?  In short, Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the technology infrastructure, applications, architectures and processes for the collection, integration, analysis, reporting, presentation and delivery of business information for better decision making. The main components of Business Intelligence systems are data-driven Decision Support Systems, Executive Information System, Customer Relationship Management System, Geographic Information System, Management Information System and Online Analytical Processing and Multidimensional Analysis. They are all based on data warehouse technology, where the data is cleaned, integrated and analyzed before being presented in the form of easy to understand information that helps improve business processes.

Importance Of Business Intelligence For Your Organization

Big data consists of a huge haystack of hidden needles of information that you need to make sense of to make smart business decisions, but unfortunately these are not readily apparent. Looking for a needle in a haystack, especially without a plan, can be overwhelming and most of us will never find it. Similarly you may have a huge spreadsheet with tons of transactional data but how do you make sense of all those numbers?  Business intelligence software allows you to gain meaningful actionable insights for growing revenue, increasing profitability, and improving operating efficiency of the business. Business intelligence in combination with analytical processing and reporting is changing how organizations function. After all, business decisions based on hard data are entirely more reliable than decisions based on instinct or assumptions. It is the timely, accurate analysis and data-driven conclusions that should provide actionable insight into business processes. Data-driven businesses make decisions five times faster than their competitors and are twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries.

Categories Of Business Intelligence Analytics Tools

Most business people only have a very broad understanding of the term ‘business intelligence’, which includes a variety of different business intelligence tools to improve the decision making processes and tactical strategic management. There are two broad categories of business analytics tools that support different business intelligence styles and capabilities:

  • Guided analytics and reporting: It includes the traditional business intelligence styles that have been used for decades by a few decision-making managers to perform recurring analyses of specific data using predefined data sets and metrics. End users can select, filter, compare, visualize and analyze data for the purpose of guided analysis and reporting. IT is generally responsible for managing the underlying data and business intelligence applications used here.

The common business intelligence tools in this category are reports, executive dashboards, scorecards, integrated spreadsheets, query and reporting tools, corporate performance management and business intelligence search. For example, with a guided analytics package, such as QlikView, you can typically set up prepared business applications featuring dashboards, charts and calculations that can be updated through user clicks and selections. But the business user will not be able to draw their own data visualizations or add their own data sources, without the help of a developer.

  • Self-service business intelligence: Self-service is currently the proverbial Holy Grail of business intelligence because users can access any data they want, when they want it, how they want it, without having to rely on other technical resources or IT. (SSBI) solutions are generally flexible and easy-to-use so that end-users can analyze data, make good business decisions, plan and predict on their own. However, there is some IT involvement needed for data access and tool governance based on the security and needs of the business users to avoid losing control over data. Moreover, the data sources need to be consumable by the business tool, which may involve working with IT to get a proper explanation of the data schema needed for analysis.

Business intelligence tools used to perform ad hoc analysis of data belong in this category. The self-service BI tools allow users to add data and define new metrics when performing their analysis, either for a one-time-only analysis or the formulation of a recurring analysis that can be shared or published.  The business users of self-service tools are thus both information consumers and analytics producer. This people-centric approach to self-service BI improves the speed and efficiency of daily business operations.

There are other advanced analytics tools that data scientists use for data intake, integration and cleansing to build predictive and prescriptive analytical models, such as predictive analytics, statistical modeling, data mining and big data analytics software.

Business Intelligence At Your Fingertips

With access to an unprecedented amount of data everywhere across a business, the role of business intelligence is now more important than ever in democratizing the data analysis process. Businesses that fail to adopt the right business intelligence approach are missing out on a huge opportunity to enhance their organization. Business intelligence tools can help your business better understand customer behavior, forecast trends, anticipate objectives, avoid bottlenecks, improve social collaboration, and give decision makers the power of strategic planning.

reputation management

Cost of Online Reputation Management

Do you know what people are saying about you online?  Traditional marketing has always known the value of word of mouth marketing.  Today the internet, well, more specifically search engines, has made knowing what people are saying about you even more important than traditional word of mouth marketing.  Why?  Because 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  So, if your reputation isn’t managed well it could be very costly.  And, did you know that what people say about you online impacts your search results?  Let’s learn some more.

Case in Point

A few years ago, American Airlines had a costly run in with a guitar.  In fact, it cost the airline $180 million and a 10% loss in their stock prices.  When a passenger witnessed the airline mishandling his guitar, which resulted in the instrument being seriously damaged, and the airline refused to pay for the damages, the passenger — musician David Caroll — wrote a song, United Breaks Guitars. The YouTube video was a huge hit with more than 15 million views and the major contributor to the airlines dip in stock prices.

Granted, this one incident didn’t bring American Airlines to destruction, but it is a good example of how, when a company has a bad reputation, business is simply more difficult to conduct, the cost of doing business increases and it’s far more difficult to retain customers and employees, shareholders, and other important stakeholders, than it is in good times.

How to Fix a Bad Online Reputation

Arguably, protecting an organization’s reputation is the most important yet difficult task facing senior management teams and boards of directors today.  First, it’s important to point out that reputation management is a game best played using offense.  When you’re on the defense, when you’re trying to fix a negative online sentiment it’s an uphill battle that takes a lot more work than had you started your vigilance early and when things were calm and clean.  However, if you find your business in a toxic situation, here are some things you can do to keep your reputation on track:

  • Monitor! This is first and foremost. If you don’t know whether or not you have a negative reputation, how can you fix it?  There are a lot of tools as well as agencies such as LocalDirective that offer services to help you monitor your online reputation.  But just like protecting your online identity, monitoring isn’t enough.
  • You need to respond to what is out there and be proactive in acquiring positive reviews, testimonials, and stories from happy customers.
  • Finally, never become complacent. The moment you think you’re safe something will happen.  What I mean is that just because there isn’t negative chatter around your business doesn’t mean that you don’t need a reputation management program.  Be proactive in building your brand as a strong company to do business with.

You know, Benjamin Franklin once said “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it”.  No other words have ringed so true as this statement.  Especially in today’s digital, share-everything world.

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Managing your online reputation isn’t just for businesses with a toxic situation.  Your online reputation also plays into other things such as your search results.   I am sure you’ve seen the stars that show up next to a company in Google search results, but did you ever wonder how or why the stars were there?  Most SEO strategists find a strong correlation between reviews and organic search result rankings, particularly in Google. It is widely believed in the industry that the importance of reviews as they relate to search result rankings will only increase over time. Therefore, being able to display your stars will show Google that your customers trust you, that they are happy with what you provide, and that you’re a credible solution.  Here are some things we know about reviews and how they impact local SEO:

  • It’s generally believed that 10 reviews left at Google provides a little bit of a ranking boost
  • Google may be trying to incorporate review sentiment into its ranking algorithms so it would be who of you to get ahead of that and start managing your sentiment today so that when this does happen you’re not playing catch up.
  • On-page SEO remains the top factor that Google considers when ranking local business, but studies show that reviews are rapidly growing in importance.
  • Finally, Google knows a fake review when it sees one and can penalize you for such tactics. In order to rank and to rank with stars, be sure that your reviews legitimate.

 

Get Started Today

While SEO and online reputation management play nicely together, they are not the same thing and should not be used unethically to impact each other. Online reputation management avoids using black hat SEO techniques.  Black hat techniques can ultimately damage your reputation by making it difficult to maintain a positive long term presence on search engine results.

At DirectiveGroup we can help you develop an ethical online reputation while avoiding harmful tactics such as buying fake reviews. Online reputation management done well is designed to establish a long term positive online presence for a business or individual. Let us help you create engaging social media profiles, a positive review presence, and multiple points of positive, high quality content to ensure that you maintain a positive online reputation that lasts.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Taxonomy for design & Why Use It on Your Site?

What is taxonomy? It is vital if you are in the middle of a site design or redesign, and provides a method of organization so there is no frustration when organizing it.

You want your visitors to not only find what they are looking for quickly, but you want them to linger a while and explore your site. And, if you have a lot of content, you’ll want to be able to find it easily. Your site’s success – or lack thereof – sits on the foundation of its organization.

Taxonomy: An Organizational Method

So, what is taxonomy and how can it help get you better organized?

Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure for the classification or organization of data that enables websites to be categorized according to topics and types, enabling easy information retrieval.

To me, the most beneficial aspect of taxonomy is that is reduces manual content management. It allows you to dynamically retrieve and display anything on a page based on enabled tags or structured fields within your content. Taxonomy gives you the opportunity to balance the page’s content with other relevant information.

How Does Taxonomy Work?

Logistically, the way it works is that you are making content load dynamically when a page is accessed by programming a search on any number of taxonomy tags or other fields within your content block or page.

No doubt, you’ve seen this, but haven’t recognized what was going on behind the scenes. Amazon’s site includes taxonomy-driven content publishing. Whenever you log in and go to a page of interest, notice how when you scroll down a little you’ll see a section telling you other customers who bought this bought that, too. Or, it will show you what you should buy today based on what you bought yesterday.

Another example can be found at online news services, such as Reuters. If you’ve ever signed up with one, you’ve been given the opportunity to personalize your experience by your unique interests. That way, you don’t have to waste your time scrolling through hours of news you’re not interested in. As soon as you log in, you get to see what matters to you.

Some taxonomy sites allow the visitor to interact and filter in ways I just mentioned. But, other sites don’t require user interaction at all. You can also develop a site with only a little user interaction.

 Taxonomy Considerations

If your site has proper taxonomy, you will be able to bridge across subjects, and better manage and often reuse your content – at scale. Of course, it will assist with effective navigation and will, ultimately, provide a better product and brand alignment. At the end of the day, it will improve SEO and findability, and even support social sharing.

When creating a sound taxonomy, the first few things to consider is its projected longevity and flexibility. This means thinking ahead to what your site might become – what additions might occur down the road. You’ll also want to think from the perspective of what terms your visitors might use and what structure will help support your business goals and help your content perform optimally. And, don’t forget to understand the scope of your project. Taxonomies can easily get out of hand.

To develop the scope of your taxonomy, imagine a Venn Diagram. The taxonomy lies at the intersection of your business context (or purpose), content and users – which are your target audience.

The Benefits of Structuring Your Own Taxonomy

Taxonomy can be a huge boon for your website. However, equally clear is that this is not something that can be built overnight. It requires strong input from both your multi-disciplined team and from your users. You have to thoroughly understand your target audience and have a good grasp on how they think. After all, you’re creating something that should be almost intuitive.

Taxonomy requires vision and commitment to plan and execute. Many companies don’t bother to standardize data definitions. Yes, it takes real time to properly define your data. But, the many benefits of having a taxonomy structure under your site are huge. Not only for your users but for your team. The many, many ways you can utilize such a structure are endless.

As you can understand, developing a taxonomy can be quite daunting.  GlobalDirective can assist your team to structure your data.  Because we have been placed in the 97-percentile of Google partners, we’re not just doing a few things right, we’re doing most everything right. Allow us to show you how to achieve real success.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

flash storage

Advocating The Use Of Flash Storage

You are likely to have used flash storage at some point in your life, if you have browsed the web on a laptop, listened to music on an MP3 player or even texted someone on your smartphone.  In fact any device with flash chips that can serve as a storage repository is loosely termed as flash storage. It can be anything from a USB device to an all-flash storage array. Flash storage was initially only used to augment traditional media or hard disk drives as a caching complement. But since then flash technology has become faster and more reliable. Solid state drives (SSD) with fully integrated circuit board, containing multiple flash chips are now being designed to replace the spinning media for hosting data sets for key applications. With enterprise data storage needs continuing to rise, it may be time to revisit the flash versus disk-based storage systems debate. Let us take a serious look at the benefits of having an all-flash infrastructure for data centers.

What Is Flash Memory?

A traditional hard drive utilizes rotating platters and heads to read data from a magnetic device, whereas flash storage uses a type of non-volatile semiconductor flash memory technology to store data. helps to eliminate any rotational delay in spinning disk and seek time functions to improve performance. Toshiba and Intel first produced flash memory devices way back in the 1980s that were based on electrically erasing programmable read only memory technology, which allowed data to be written and deleted electronically in a flash.

Flash uses a trapped charge on non-volatile memory chips to store data and therefore the data is retained, even when power is removed. The primary technologies used for flash storage are single level cell, dual level cell, triple level cell, 3D Flash and variants on each of them. The flash memory capacity has doubled every year since it came about and according to estimates the cost per bit for flash has reduced by a factor of 200,000, which is why enterprises are now looking at flash as a complete replacement for hard drive arrays.

Choosing An All-Flash Array

An all-flash array is a storage system wholly built around solid-state drives or flash memory with very high I/O capability, instead of traditional hard disk drives (HDD). Flash provides fast, reliable and consistent performance with low latency and fast data transfer rates. Flash storage devices are now available with capabilities of 500,000 up to one million input/output operations per second in a single footprint and latency figures of one millisecond or less. They can stand up to the demands of high-performance applications for instant access and low latency.

Adding SSDs into existing hardware platforms may provide a better solution than a hard drive-based array but it certainly does not best utilize flash storage capabilities. Traditional storage arrays help in optimizing the performance of the hard drive through the use of caching and intelligent algorithms to complement the physics of accessing spinning media. Whereas all-flash arrays are designed from the ground up to work with the unique characteristics of flash media by providing enough back-end bandwidth capacity to cope with solid-state media. There is also planning for wear leveling across all devices and preparation for multi-layer redundancy in case of failure.

Operational Advantages Of All-Flash Storage For The Enterprise

All-flash arrays may not be less expensive than hybrid arrays or traditional hard disk arrays, on a dollar-per-gigabyte basis ($/GB) but a better cost comparison model would be on a dollar-per number of input output operations per second basis ($/IOP). The total cost of ownership and acquisition cost for all-flash solutions can be significantly lowered by intelligently using storage optimization technologies, such as data de-duplication, thin provisioning, and compression. According to a study by Wikibon, the total cost of ownership for flash is expected to continue to fall through 2020 and the cost per terabyte will reduce from roughly $151 in 2016 to $9 by 2020. All-flash disk arrays can provide ultra-high speed performance, enterprise-class availability, reliability and storage efficiencies with built-in preventive maintenance for cost savings.

All-flash solutions are better for high performance applications, such as transactional databases or virtual infrastructures, including server and desktop infrastructures that can often cause a bottleneck. SSD arrays are more suited to an environment where low latency and consistently high throughput are required because it can deliver millions of IOPS and sub-millisecond latency in a tiny space. Flash memory can speed up complex database operations and provide consistent robust performance capabilities with built in redundancies, while being scalable and reliable.

Flash storage can allow a company to do things that were simply not possible to do with traditional storage, like speed up its business analytics process and to potentially create new business opportunities. SSD’s remove bottlenecks in the environment by speeding up existing processes and providing quick access to stored data so that businesses can do more in the same amount of time. A move to flash storage can considerably reduce the backup window and decision-making time, while increasing work productivity and revenue growth.

Solid-state drives are more durable because they don’t rely on any moving parts whereas hard drives depend on spinning disks. There is no cause for concern about damage to the storage units or loss of data should any disaster happen to the flash storage. This is an amazing attribute where data security is concerned. Due to the lack of moving parts in flash storage, SSD’s use fewer resources than traditional storage solutions, thus saving substantial money in reduced energy costs.

Transition To Flash

Your organization should first evaluate its data set, application behavior and workload to best determine whether it would benefit from an all-flash storage system in its data center.  Storage management of massive disk arrays can be challenging but more enterprises are transitioning to all-flash data storage for time-sensitive and key performance applications. Falling SSD prices and the availability of more quantifiable reports from organizations about the strategic business advantages of adopting an all-flash storage solution will definitely result in an uptick for all-flash rollouts.

Understanding and Marketing to Generation Z

The year 2080 will be the start of a time in our history which will be unlike any in recorded history. There will no longer be an age group that outnumbers another. That changes everything. And, though 2080 is pretty far down the road, those changes have already begun – with Generation Z.

When I first heard of Generation Z, I thought it was just another generational group characterized by its own set of idiosyncrasies resulting from its very existence and place in history. And, in a sense, it is. But, it very well could be something more.

All other generations, from Depression Era, to WWII, to Boomers, Generation X, and then Millennials each fell into a specific age group. All were born at definite times which shaped who they became and how they viewed the world and their place in it. That, in turn, dictated how we could best advertise and market to them.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z is not completely characterized by one age group; though, it could be. Most notably, it is characterized by a mindset. If we were to give it a birth time, it would be between 1995 and 2005. But, since Gen Z is a group whose members all use new technology, hyperconnectivity and collaboration to drive change through innovation, it is said anyone can be a part of this group, no matter their age.

The new philosophy behind Gen Z is to get rid of negative generational stereotypes and put the focus on working with technology and each other to make great strides in the world in which we live and work.

There are a few main philosophies which are the driving force behind Gen Z. This should be our focus as we interact and engage with them.

  • Instead of relegating people to generational boxes, the thought is to amalgamate everyone’s good traits or abilities to create a cohesive team.
  • Hyperconnecting means everyone has the same opportunity to access the same information from the Internet. And because anyone can be connected, anyone can learn and develop skills.
  • Influence – and not affluence – is the new power. This influence is wrought from a strong personal brand.
  • Gen Z believes you can hack through anything – breaking tradition and changing the rules – to get anything they want. The term coined for this is Lifehacking.

How Do We Appeal To GenZ?

Gen Zers have a very limited span of attention. It is said to be 6-8 seconds. Yes. Seconds. But, because they are so fast-paced, and have been bombarded with so much since birth, they have decidedly highly-selective filters. If they like what you offer, they are committed. And, as with Millennials, they are far more concerned with relationships and engagement than they are with any other type of marketing activity. So, you’ll want to focus your efforts on connection points and creating those relationships, in tandem with usual marketing efforts.

And, as is with Millennials, social media is pivotal in the lives of Gen Zers. In fact, 40% say social media impacts their happiness. So, make them feel good about themselves.
Because Gen Zers have grown up in such a corrupt world, they intensely desire to make a real difference. Create campaigns that show you care about your brand’s impact. Show you care about more than just your bottom line. Tell the story about how your brand impacts the greater good.

If you connect with them and are real with them, and if you can prove that you care about them and the world we all share, you will have shot at getting GenZ to love you, buy from you, and amplify your message throughout their social media stratosphere.

Materials To Help You Get Started

As with any target market, research is paramount to your success.  Be sure that you segment your market appropriately, understand what appeals to them, and how and when to best reach them.  Consumers are early 60% of the way through the purchase process before they ever engage with sales so knowing how to disrupt their thinking and attract their attention, no matter what generation they are from, should be an important part of your plan.  At GlobalDirective, we have an eBook on Persona Based Marketing that can help you get started with painting the right picture of your GenZ market.

It’s a lot of work to take on by yourself.  GlobalDirective can help.  We have been placed in the 97% percentile of Google partners.  That means that we’re not just doing some things right, we’re doing a lot of things right.  And we can help you with those “things” too.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Start Your Dream Blog In 5 Easy Steps

Blogging is a hugely popular means of communicating and disseminating information and news nowadays. There are millions of blogs online as more people are taking to it to express their ideas and creativity. Your blog can be exactly what you want it to be from a simple web log, or a public journal to even a collaborative space for people with similar interests. The only roadblock in the way of aspiring bloggers is not having adequate knowledge about the technical basics of how to go about getting their first blog up and running. We have put together a simple Blogging 101 guide to help you get started right away.

Guide To Create a Dream Blog

Here’s a quick look at the few simple steps you will need to run through in order to start your dream blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform
  • Get a domain name and set up your own webhosting
  • Configure and design your blog
  • Start producing content for your readers
  • Marketing your blog

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each step in the guide to help you start your first dream blog.

Step 1- Choose Your Blogging Platform
You first need to select a blogging platform so that you can get your content up onto the web. There are many open source platforms around for building your blog and they are supported by most web hosting companies. The main blogging platforms you can choose from are:

WordPress – is a massively popular blogging platform with countless plugins/add-ons and customizable content management system (CMS) offering superior features built for bloggers so that they have complete control over how their blog looks

Ghost – is the new kid on the blogging block and it has created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere

Drupal – is a popular blogging platform but it is difficult for novices

Joomla – has a great CMS but there is a steep learning curve involved
For those who want to avoid paying for a blogging platform – however small the cost—you can grab one for free from Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr. But before you take a decision, know that free blogs have downsides too, including:

  • You won’t be able to get a custom domain name with many of the free blogging platforms, which can seem unprofessional to potential subscribers and customers.
  • There are many limits to free blogs such as level of customization or available bandwidth for uploads. Moreover you will not be able to fully monetize your blog.
  • With Blogger or Tumblr or the free version of WordPress you don’t actually own your blog and they can shut you down anytime without any prior warning. All your site content can be deleted with no way to recover it for even minor indiscretions such as using copyrighted images by mistake.

Step 2- Get a domain name and Set up Webhosting
Next you will need a domain name, which is the URL or the site address for your blog online. Every blog should have its own domain but it can be hard to find a domain name that isn’t taken! For your blog, choose a short name that can be easily remembered. Also consider its uniqueness and what the domain says about your brand. Do remember to take into consideration copyright and trademark factors when selecting your domain name.  Once you have a domain for your blog, you need to think of where your blog will be stored online. Selecting a reliable webhost is essential because this company will be responsible for putting your website up on the internet so that anyone online can see it. All the content for your blog will be saved on there. Investing a little money on domain registration and a good webhost will ensure that your site gets backed up regularly and you can recover your website for any reason. It is wise to get your domain registered from the same place that you get your blog hosted to save you from future headaches.

You can get your dream blog up and running with the Starter Blog Hosting package from Lunarpages at a super affordable rate of $3.95/mo. Lunarpages offers fast and easy setup for WordPress installation, intuitive control panel for easy website file management and 24/7 technical support.  If you already have a domain registered, Lunarpages will provide you with the necessary information to easily transfer your domain. You can install WordPress on your blog in just a few clicks through Lunarpages and then make changes from the WordPress administrator area.

Step 3- Configure and Design Your Blog
Take your time to configure WordPress themes as it controls the look and feel of your blog. You do not need coding expertise or design knowledge to design your dream blog. WordPress theme is a pre-designed template for you to customize your blog exactly how you want it to look. There are two aspects to every theme: the framework and the design element. To make your blog standout in the crowded blogosphere, first impressions with an impressive design theme count for a lot. You may select from thousands of free themes available online, but investing in a premium theme can help improve your brand image. Additionally, they are secure, fast, easy to navigate, and responsive designed for both mobile and desktop. You will find that they are also easy to customize and install. You can find themes for your blog at Themeforest, StudioPress or the WordPress Library.

Installing your theme is even easier as it comes in a .zip file format and you can upload it direct to your WordPress Dashboard by logging into your WordPress blog. If it is a free theme, you can click Install on the preview screen of your WordPress dashboard. WordPress also allows you to switch themes or go back to your old theme with just a few clicks and without fear of losing any precious content or images.

WordPress allows you to install and use plugins through its dashboard to make your blog feature rich and more functional. Do keep your added plugins to a minimum and install just the best ones you need.

Step 4- Start Producing Content For Your Readers
The soul of a successful blog is in its writing. If no one wants to read your content then your blog will not get too many subscribers. The two main types of content that you can create for your blog in WordPress are ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’. Pages are static pages that will not see much change and it helps link to and from your navigation area/menus on your blog, such as the ‘About Page.’ Regular posts are what appear on the front page of your blog, with comments and the date of publishing.

The aim of a blog is to ultimately provide valuable content that people actually want to read and share with their friends. To create great content, you need to put thought into more than just words. Blogs should not be huge block of text without any visual breaks (such as bulleted lists). Posts should include images or videos and you can use stylized fonts and colors to make your content stand apart from the rest.

Step 5- Marketing Your Blog
You may have setup your blog properly and published great content but this is no guarantee of anyone ever discovering it online. For your blog to grab more eyeballs, you need to promote your blog correctly. There are several methods you can utilize to properly market your blog including:

  • Social networks– When you publish your blog post do make sure to post a link on your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. Promoting your post on social media platforms improves your chances of getting more shares and you may also see an increase in traffic to your blog.
  • Commenting on other blogs– You can access people with similar interest areas by leaving a comment on other related blogs with a link back to your own blog. Make sure not to abuse this method and only submit a useful comment to get people interested in wanting to learn more from your blog.
  • Guest posting– You can also get readers of other blogs to hear about your blog by writing guest posts. Get in touch with other blog owners and offer to write a post for their site with a link to your blog.
  • Online forums– Make sure you join popular online forums related to your topic to make helpful posts on the site. Most forums do allow you to post a link to your site in the signature at the bottom of every post you write. If your forum posts are high quality and informative, people will surely want to click on your blog to read more.

Now that you know the technical side of setting up your blog, let the fun times roll. There will be a lot of learning along the way but don’t let that overwhelm you. Welcome to the blogosphere and enjoy expressing yourself in your new blog.

Ecosystem

The Power Of Together: Partner Ecosystems For Business Growth

Major technical innovations and growing customer demands in recent years have led to the popularity of less centralized ecosystems in the business world. The stress is now on building equal partnerships with value-adding third party vendors such as service providers, hardware and software vendors, value-added resellers, two-tier distributors, managed service companies and referral evangelists, for a rich collaborative ecosystem supporting your company’s product/service offerings. If your company is not positioned to participate in this new multiple partner ecosystem model, then you are likely to lag behind. Are you wondering about the future challenges of successfully building mutually beneficial relationships in your own company’s ecosystem? What are the different types of companies that your business will need to partner with in the coming years for continued success? In this article, we explore the efficacy of network partner ecosystems to support the “anytime, anywhere, any device” business needs of today.

Why Ecosystem Partners?

Any large or small business can substantially reduce operating expenses and gain important competitive advantages from a strong, strategic partnership networks. Partners can help overcome your limitations of internal resources to build new solutions and allow you to scale your business in terms of technical ability, customer support, and sales capabilities that you would never be able to achieve alone. The technology ecosystems dating back to the 60s through the 90s were smaller and had a tendency to roll out changes over months or years. The difference going forward is that rapid advances in technology and changing customer demands now require a more agile adoption, development, and use of multi-vendor solutions for any infrastructure. Moreover changes on the vendor and customer side keep shifting the goalposts making it a real challenge for businesses to stay aligned. Businesses can no longer wait for providers to catch up with major technical innovations but rather look to unleash the power of skills, tools and ideas from associated partners in order to grease the wheels of growth. You get cost-effective, real-time access to diverse partners and solution providers as part of your technology ecosystem. A rich partner program enables adoption of assorted technology for different layers of infrastructure to create better solutions and services for customers. There are virtualized platforms, cloud services, appliances, on premise solutions, internally developed applications, hosting services, and different customer devices that can all interact.

Potential Ecosystem Partners

Success depends on embracing innovation, change, and technology to solve business problems. A rich partner network provides the best antidote for resolving business problems involving a range of services and technologies. Here are just some of the key partnerships businesses can develop with other organizations.

  • Technology Partners– Partnering with a technology company provides valuable products that can be integrated into another vendor’s product to capture newer markets. They include third party application developers, implementation tools providers with specialization in “tools” to add value to your product and platforms, verticalization specialists focused on building industry specific customized solutions for their customers, or even platform providers for tighter integration. Businesses can also benefit from partnering with system integrators, who can build systems using off-the-shelf hardware and software packages from different vendors to meet your company’s IT needs, or even with bundlers or value-added resellers integrating various solutions into a single bundle for customers.
  • Technology Service Providers– Technology service providers are professional service companies or individual professionals working directly with the technology product. They work either with end clients or together with other partner organizations. Tech service providers include implementation consultants to help customize and configure technology products for local markets, vendor management consultants for negotiating and procuring vendors, custom development specialists to build applications or technology centered on off-the-shelf solutions, or support service providers for maintenance and technical support of products. Managed service providers specializing in the network, its infrastructure, and the implementation of services for customers can enrich your business partner ecosystem as well.
  • Sales and Marketing Partners-These partners are distribution partner channels that help in scaling sales and marketing of your company’s product and services. You may be interested in developing co-marketing partners to work on different solutions for the same customer base. Your business may even benefit from building partnerships with referrers or different types of sales agents who recommend their customers to your services or products. Most importantly, creating partner networks with end retailers of IT, network, and software solutions can most definitely help grow your business’ reach.

There are also non-technology service partners who can influence the decision of prospective buyers in the market towards preferred vendors like industry associations, standard developers, technology evangelists, training providers, and industry analysts.

Partnering Challenges  

A clear partner ecosystem development strategy should be part of the growth plan of your business. Let us look at some of the top challenges faced by the service provider ecosystem when building effective channels and partnerships for the future.

1. Your business needs to develop a gap analysis to identify pressing problems in different aspects of your business. This will help determine what you can do and what weak areas you need your partners to address.

2. You have to define and support a culture of partnerships within the company. It is possible to build a committed partner-centric organization with effective features like partner programs, deal registrations, conflict management policies and good support systems.

3. Finding and building relationships with the right partners and service providers can prove to be a real test as they need to be aligned with your company needs. Your choice of partners should be based on the value proposition and benefits you can gain from these different players.

4. Companies often find it daunting to manage operational challenges with partners, while working on ongoing sales engagement to strengthen their presence in the market. It can be hard to balance competitive partner alliances in order to reduce the pressure on the distribution channels.

5. Time and resource management is central to building trusted partner relationships. It is absolutely essential to fully support your partners’ solutions, services, and sales efforts for the sustained success of your business. You also need to ensure adequate training for the technical and sales teams to improve the quality of service and support your business offers. The real challenge lies in improving the integration between service, training, certifications and community supported knowledge base being offered by partner networks.

6. It is vital to keep communication channels with partners and vendors open in order to promote engagement and help partners grow the ecosystem as a whole. Good communication and partner-to-partner connections can lead to excellent execution and sharing of responsibilities for success.

Scale-up With Partners

Henry Ford- “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  With an ecosystem of trusted partners at your side, it is a win-win situation for both businesses and customers. Multiple players in an ecosystem model provide incremental value with the addition of each new user and each new service. Whether your partnership ecosystem is large or small, it enables rapid changes in competitive advantage for companies and helps create new customer experiences with a vision for the future. Businesses across all industries and not just limited to tech, product or service providers can develop partner ecosystems to capture new growth opportunities.

Get Intimate with Your Customers. Start a Podcast.

If I told you that podcast marketing has been around since the 1980’s would you think I was crazy?  First known as audioblogging, podcasts started in the 80’s but didn’t take flight until 2004.  Unlike radio marketing where listeners choose a station and are forced to listen to whatever content the station is publishing, podcast marketing is an intimate, opt-in medium where you have to be a good story teller with ultra-compelling content that keeps your audience wanting more.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Maybe not literally, but when you can build a relationship and connect with your listeners, you get invited into their lives.  Podcasts allow you to build relationships like no other form of content can.  There is something special about hearing a story.  After all, the most basic, human form of storytelling is audio.  It allows the listener to fill in the gap and paint their own picture of the story you’re telling. 

Podcasts are about connecting. They have a voice.  It’s this voice that forms a bond and keeps listeners coming back for more.  There is no “LOL” in a podcast; there is actual laughing.  When your target market can hear you laugh, hear the “ummms” and hesitation, the inflections and the excitement in your voice, when they hear the human side of your personality, life gets breathed into your content and relationships are formed.  And because of the mobile nature of podcasts, you can go with your listeners anywhere that they take you….even the dinner table.

Get to Know Each Other First

Some would say that the podcast trumps any other form of content.  I would disagree.  While a podcast most certainly can stand alone, it is also a fantastic tool to use in conjunction with other forms of content.  In fact, other pieces of content should be used to introduce your brand as a stepping stone in the relationship.  Blogs, for example, are a great way to build trust and credibility.  A research study conducted by Research Now uncovered that 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or a service on a blog.  Blogs attract new audiences, establish authority, and build engagement. Once these things have been established, it’s easier to branch out into other, more perosnal forms of content such as podcasts.

Have a Plan

Planning your podcast is just as important as planning any other form of content.  Here are a few steps to take before you start recording:

  • Build an editorial calendar: just like you would with your blog or social media marketing, an editorial calendar keeps you organized and outlines your topics
  • Choose a software: there are a lot of options depending on whether you use a Mac or a PC.  Either way, select a program that is easy to use and fits within your budget.
  • Write a script: you do not have to read it line-for-line, in fact we discourage that, but a script gives you guidance and keeps you on topic.
  • Tag it: make sure you tag your file so that it is search friendly.
  • Upload it: enough said.
  • Promote it: let your target audience know that you have published a new episode.  Promote it using email, blogs and (of course) social media.

Getting Started

The benefits to producing a podcast include not just an increased connection with your audience, but also greater visibility online, increased SEO, more traffic being driven to your website and an increase in brand awareness.  Podcast listeners are growing rapidly.  Those who consume podcasts on a weekly basis listened to an average of five podcasts per week.  Now is the time to get on board with this growing form of content. 

So what now?  It’s a lot of work to take on by yourself.  GlobalDirective can help.  The first step to implementing a successful social selling campaign is to understand your target markets habits, interests and pain points.  From there you can build your content to address these things by successfully writing valuable and findable pieces of information that your target market cares about. 

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Deciphering Web Hosting Reviews

Having a website for your business is more the norm than an exception these days, which makes picking the best web hosting provider mission critical. With so many web hosts available from local mom-and-pop service providers to global bigwigs, who do you trust with your very livelihood? After all, it is not just your website but sensitive company schematics, financial information, personal data that is at stake. Since all web hosts are not created equal, it is crucial that you get your money’s worth, not just in terms of price but also service offerings and customer service. People often look up web hosting reviews on the internet to search for companies with a reputable track record but end up feeling more confused than when they started. This article will help you gain an invaluable insight into the simple metrics in web hosting reviews that you can use to compare potential hosts.

Types of Reviews

There are two types of reviews available for consumption.  Third-party reviews and customer reviews.  Third-party reviews are done by paid or independent professionals who either work for or post their reviews on industry sites.  These are important because consumers will usually refer to trusted industry experts for opinions and recommendations.  While these types of reviews are important, perhaps more important, are customer reviews.  A recent study shows that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  Not only that but 78% of buyers feel that what is posted on social media impacts their purchase.  Most SEO strategists find a strong correlation between reviews and organic search result rankings, particularly in Google. It is widely believed in the industry that the importance of this factor will only increase over time, given the importance in reviews by website visitors—making these types of reviews even more valuable. 

What Is Web Hosting?

For your website to be served up to the browser of anyone on the internet, the files have to be uploaded to a server. The server is a rented space managed by a hosting company to store all the data for your website. A registrant leases server space, establishes a domain name which points to the hosting account on that particular server, and then uploads the webpage to it so that visitors can browse your site. Hosting services are billed depending on the type of server you need, and the space & bandwidth you are using.

Review Criteria For A Hosting Company

Web host services are absolutely irreplaceable in ensuring that your website is always accessible, and runs smoothly without any hiccups. Here are some factors you may run into in different web hosting reviews (both third party and customer).  Should your web host fall short in any of these key qualities then you may want to switch to a more dependable and secure host with dedicated customer support.

Reliability And Redundancy

A reliable and fast web hosting service will guarantee your website’s uptime. You want to ensure that your website is always functional so that no visitor will have to click away before interacting with your business. Your web host should guarantee an uptime of at least 99.5% or higher so that you never lose any business. Remember that there is a very big difference between hosting that stays up 99% (87.6 hours of downtime annually), 99.9% (8.78 hours a year) and 99.99% (53 minutes yearly). There should also be mirrored servers in multiple backup locations so that if there is any problem with one, there is another one already online.

Specialties

Different customers have varying server requirements and not all web hosts will have solutions to address those. Web hosting services have their own area of focus or specialties, for example while one may have impressive shared plans they may not be the right fit for a company looking for enterprise solutions. When shopping for a web host provider, identify the company’s specialty and find reviews on the web that talk about the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Your host should be able to offer you packages big or small to cover all your business needs. You also need to know if your host has VPS or Dedicated Server solutions and if you can easily upgrade your account in the future. Pick a host can scale up with your business’ growth.

Tech Specs / Limitations

If you are thinking of hosting a blog, sharing rich content, and videos on your pages, or running an e-commerce site, then you should not let price be the deciding criteria when choosing a web host. A cheap plan may not have the RAM, bandwidth, processing power, and disk space to serve all your website needs. You have to find out what systems (like Linux, FreeBSD or OpenBSD) are being offered by your web host and if they use top-of-the-line web servers (Apache or Windows) so that you experience fewer compatibility and performance issues down the road. You should be able to use FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL, Cron on your paid web hosting account.  You will need ".htaccess” files to customize your error pages or to protect your site from bandwidth theft or even to password-protect a directory, etc. SSH access is necessary to test certain scripts and to maintain databases while MySQL will help you run a blog or a content management system. With the help of Cron you can schedule and automatically run programs at certain times of the day. Additionally, if you are going to collect credit card payments through your website you most definitely will need help from your web host to set up SSL. Your provider should also have an easy to use interface like cPanel or Plesk to make installations, updates, modifications, and maintenance tasks simple. You have to know what your site’s needs are and then look for features that are included in the cost. Find out if they charge for multiple domains, support, backups, and more.

Technical support

All hosts do not pay equal importance to support staff, and some even think of customer support as an afterthought. Look for reviews around this topic from current customers who are willing to share their experience.  There should be different ways available to contact technical support and customer service reps—email, toll-free phone, chat, and more. Before choosing a host, look into the reputation of their customer support reps for speed of response, technical competency, and language proficiency.

Make A Wise Decision

A reliable and trusted web hosting company will offer high quality efficient services and even proactively work to identify and correct problems before they occur. To avoid being suckered by a web host that you should steer clear of, do some research and look up reviews so that you can make an informed decision. Remember, there are many reviews of web hosts made by satisfied customers on their own site or on different webmaster forums. Be sure to include those in your research.   

Common SMB Mistakes When Setting Up A Website

Most business owners acknowledge the importance of having a great product or service and an established online presence today. There are over 82% of local businesses currently hosting a website.  A website is not just the digital face of the company anymore.  Today, it also helps to engage audiences, start conversations, and build relationships with your target market and current clients. If you want to grow your brand online, all roads should lead back to the central hub of your business presence—the all important website.  But just having a website is not enough to fuel the sales and growth of your business; it must be a well-designed site with clear objectives and good content. Yet, very often small and medium business owners undermine their business goals by trying to cut corners with their website and these shortcuts often prove to be disastrous. Here are the most common mistakes you should avoid when setting up your business website to ensure you do not kill the golden goose.

Mistake 1: No Clear Business Plan or Strategy
Before developing your site, there needs to be a business plan in place, with clearly defined objectives. Simply put, what products, services or information should visitors to your site see and read? Can your site offer a better solution to your target market than your competitors?

What’s the goal of each page?  Your site should ideally be designed for your target market segment and it should drive them to an action, such as buying your product, signing-up to your email list, sharing your link or taking a survey. You must also develop a plan-of-action with task lists for your website in order to successfully achieve your goals.  Without a clear business plan or strategy you will not know how to build your call-to-actions; which are vital to achieve online conversions.

Mistake 2: No Integrated Marketing Plan
SMBs often undermine the potential of their business website by implementing discrete marketing tactics for their website and offline marketing efforts, instead of integrating both. Why not spread the word about your offline promotions online or use offline marketing to drive traffic to your site? If you want to drive high quality traffic to your site and get a profitable return-on-investment from it, then you must have a well-designed website and a comprehensive marketing plan to promote your brand—both on and off-line.

Before you begin coding for your website, consider some of these tactics to integrate into your plan:

  • Affiliate marketing channels: Use this tactic to promote your brand or consider selling through established third-party platforms.
  • With almost 75% online searchers never looking past the first page of search results, it is vital for your website to use search engine optimization strategies to make it visible to newer audiences. Therefore, your marketing plan should focus on social signals and on-page as well as off-page factors that search engines use to determine the SERP rankings. Other SEO tactics include building citations and backlinks and using keywords and meta-info on your website
  • Ask for referrals and showcase reviews to help boost the visibility of your website.
  • SMBs often find it challenging to keep their website content fresh and updated in order to remain relevant in Google searches. Update company news, host a blog with tips and advice for customers and post on industry trends to rank higher in organic searches.
  • While your website design must never get in the way of the marketing message, it still has to be professional and attractive enough to make an impression on visitors and draw their attention to the content. The website design, layout and graphics are just another tool that helps get your message to your customers in a clear and concise way.

Mistake 3: No Clear Calls-To-Action
If your site has a clear business plan and communicates your message clearly, potential customers will be led to commit to an action—resulting in higher conversions. Start by considering what core actions you want your visitors to take once they are on your website?  Is the goal to have them buy a product? Would you rather they contact you? Or perhaps your business objective is to increase your email subscriptions?  You can create simple & accessible call to action links or buttons to help guide the user and address their needs, while achieving your own business goals, such as call-in traffic, walk-in traffic, lead generation, or online sales.

  • Call-In Traffic – If you want your visitors contacting via phone to schedule an appointment or discuss your service with you, then you have to advertise your phone number prominently on your webpage. Use enticing copy like “Call today for a free phone consultation” or “Contact us for a free assessment”, etc.
  • Walk-In Traffic – If you want potential customers to walk in to your local brick-and-mortar store then feature ‘Contact Us’ information front and center, with your store address. Also display a map on your site. Offer special coupons and discount vouchers that they can claim in-store by printing it off or showing on their mobile phone. An extra incentive gives customers a little extra push to visit your store.
  • Lead Generation – There are a number of call-to-action’s you can offer for attracting quality leads for your business. For generating leads use contact forms, offer free trials, use sign up’s, or even set up free downloads in exchange for personal contact information.
  • Online Sale – If your business centers on selling online then it is vital to make the process of purchasing from your website extremely simple and easy. The product information should be concise and precise, with prominently displayed ‘Buy Now’ buttons. You can drive people into immediate action by creating a sense of urgency with CTAs, such as “20% Off For First 50 Customers” or “Shop Now! Sale Ends Sunday.” Do ensure your site is secure, especially if transactions take place on your website and you handle sensitive personal information.

Regardless of the action you want the visitors to take, you have to design the site to communicate value clearly. To highlight CTA links or buttons use larger fonts, contrasting color, and pay attention to positioning so that it stands out to viewers and they can easily follow through on the desired action.

Mistake 4: Not Mobile-Friendly
In 2015 the number of consumers conducting an online search on their mobile surpassed desktop searchers. Whether looking up a shop address while out and about or searching for the nearest restaurant when on the move, smartphones and tablets have made it hugely convenient for users to search the web. Despite this trend, worryingly only about 91 percent of SMB websites are mobile-optimized. It is absolutely crucial now for your website to function well and look good on any size screen.

To make your site mobile-compatible, you can either make your site mobile-responsive or create a distinct mobile version of your site. Mobile responsive sites automatically respond to adjust to the size of the device being used to browse your site, while a mobile version of your site has duplicate content hosted on a sub-domain of your website. Google prefers a mobile responsive website over a mobile version of a website. Think from the user’s perspective to detect features on your site that may frustrate mobile users and fix these problems like slow load times (longer than 2 seconds), difficulty in navigating on different devices, dead links, etc.

Mistake 5: Not Choosing The Right Hosting And/Or eCommerce Platforms
For the continued success of your website, you must get the infrastructure right. The primary function of a web host is to deliver your website files to the visitor’s browser quickly and reliably, without fail. SMBs often wonder why they should pay for a host when there are scores of free hosts to choose from. If you want to be taken seriously by visitors, then you must put some thought into where your website lives.

You must have a unique domain name, own your site, have control over your server and hosting account, and get access to good backend software which is typically not possible with a free host. Reputable web hosting companies will have fast, secure servers and an integrated platform with managed services, marketing tools and additional features to help you run a successful website. A web hosting provider with no downtime and strong security will also help improve your page rankings and SEO results. Also, remember that the server’s physical location does impact search results, so stick to picking a web host in the country where your target customers reside.

To run a functional eCommerce website, you must look for tested and updated eCommerce solutions to manage all the products, categories, checkout process, and more. The checkout process to complete a purchase should ideally be limited to 3 clicks or less. You can benefit from feature-rich plug ins such as WooCommerce, Ecwid, and MarketPress as well as custom installs including Magento or Cs-Cart. eCommerce websites will also need an SSL (secure sockets layer) Certificate for encryption of sensitive data such as credit card numbers and personal information in order to assure visitors and search engines about the security status of your site.

You can easily get a domain name, hosting account, and SSL Certificate using Lunarpages. We have a range of basic business web hosting plans to more advanced hosting solutions such as private cloud hosting, IT infrastructure, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. Lunarpages uses only the most advanced virtualization technologies available today such as VMware and Citrix XenServer.

Stay Ahead Of The Game
Now that you are aware of the most common mistakes made by SMBs when running a site, you can use it as a checklist to tweak your site in order to improve your web presence. Help your business grow in leaps and bounds with a dynamic business website.