There Is Life Outside These Lines Of Code

Here is how I knew I must stop and take a break from being online all the time.
I am in internet junkie. Really.

Always have been, ever since I bought my very first IBM XT 286 in 1996.

I was so fascinated with this abundance of information, access to whatever you please.

Singing in a hillbilly band (please don’t get me started – I did it for the money! In Estonia we did not what hilbillies are :)), this gave me all the lyrics I needed, teaching English was a breaze with all sorts of resources available to download.

And it still excites me. I am like a child in a toy store EVERY TIME I turn on my laptop, it feels like Christmas morning – no kidding!
Not only I have a very excitable, almost obsessive personality when it comes to new platforms, tools, tips, tricks (this is what drew me to web design in the first place),I love people, opinions, learning from the best, meeting successful people who live a laptop lifestyle – this really motivates me in my business and in my life.

Needless to say it came to a stage where it consumed all my attention most of the time, and I found it hard to switch off. And since all my work also took place online (or at least on the computer), there was this pressure to ” get everything done”, so I could get paid as “money don’t grow on the trees”
But one day it changed.

 

My daughter and I once went to a local clothing department store.

“ I just want to SCROLL down there now” – I said,as we were walking around the aisles.
“Mom! THIS IS OUTERNET!” She replied.

 

OUTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

English is not my first language and sometimes I mix up words, but this time is was almost intentional. I was SCROLLING DOWN the aisle! In the OUTERNET! I was so engrossed in being online all the time, I started referring to the real life using the same lingo!

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#FearLessTruth: THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN LOOKING AT IT THROUGH THE SCREEN.

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Something happened to me that day. I started feeling ashamed that indeed my life has been so much online, the actual real life feels like just another virtual reality, the OUTERNET…

What about real people in my life? My husband, my daughter, my mom, who I may forget to ring every week… what do they see looking at me? They cannot talk to me as they see I am not 100% engaging.

I started noticing and feeling that “zone” I was constantly in. I had been preoccupied with whatever I saw online going to bed, waking up. In fact this had made me so unhappy and tired. It had completely taken over my life. It probably hijacked some of the amazing years of my daughter growing up… as I was too busy “scrolling down” another website page or replying to another Facebook message…

 

That year I made two most important decisions of my adult life.
One – work is work. Do it when you are inspired, so it is done quickly and productively. Work with your creativity cycles. You do NOT have to work HARD to make a living.
Two – unless what you do online is 100% geared towards making your dreams come true, get offline. The Universe will ensure you have enough amazing things around you to enjoy, so it does not feel like OUTERNET when you are not online.

 

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In Conclusion, nobody’s perfect.

While I have learnt to work less hours with so much more productive outcome, I am still spending a lot of time online, especially since I started specialising in Facebook Marketing.

But now it is not just a fascination or an obsession. Now I am making the magic happen. I am making my dreams come true. And then at 8pm, I switch it off and put it all away.

To be present.

not in the OUTERNET,

in the NOW.

The Real Cost Of A Website Design Project

When you get a quotation for a website from a Web Design company, keep in mind that the quotation may or may not include the additional costs, so here is what you need to clarify:

Website Domain Name

This is the URL (link name) of your website. (For example mine is ezmarketing.ie). I highly recommend you buy the domain name in your own name and a separate account to your web master and then let them know the login details for domain management. This will save a lot of hassle if you have to change your webmaster at some stage in the future.

Website Hosting

This is a space on the server where your website files are stored. Often the web design company also offers hosting, as they will need to manage some features through the hosting control panel, but make sure you ask. Personally, I advise to purchase hosting space in your name, for the same reason as in case of the domain – there is no need to be a “hostage” to a web design company should you decide to part at some stage in the future.

Of all hosting companies I have ever dealt with only one definitely stands out for me: SiteGround! The quality of the service is amazing, there are never any server downtime (apart from that 10 minutes last time there was this massive global cyber attack, but then other hosting companies took hours to recover), and the live chat is absolutely amazing – they do a lot of things that you ask them (within reason of course) where Blacknight for example, will send you to their online documentation section. SiteGround for me is a 5 star service and I strongly recommend it to all my clients.

Here is a link to check them out:

Search Engine Optimisation

A website is like a business card, it tells what you do and how to contact you (even buying products is a form of online contact). SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is adding tags that are small, invisible to the user, but very visible to search engines, it is also making sure that you have all text & images optimised to include selected keywords. The keyword is what people would type into the search engine to find your business.

This is NOT part of a web design project. Only some very basic optimisation can be expected. So when your new website goes live- do not expect it to start appearing in the search engines straight away. Google is very slow on indexing (making records) of any new sites and pages, it takes weeks for it to include the new website in the listings, and definitely NOT on the first page.

SEO is a separate campaign style project- this means it will need to be completed over several weeks, and it is paid for separately as well. Any results from an SEO project are not immediately visible and this is just the way it works. You should expect website to appear anywhere near page one within 6 months to a year. This is provided that you have great content that is regularly updated, dynamic features, like videos and various interactive modules and that the competition in your niche is not fierce.

Up until then the only way to appear on page one of Google is to advertise with Google Adwords and Google Shopping if you are selling products.

Logo

Logo design is a graphic design project and may not be included in the website design quote. Expect up to €300 fee for a professional logo design. This should be profiled to you in hi resolution format that will be suitable for print in whatever size you need on whatever advertising media and a web version for the web use. You may ask for a separate square design version of your logo for Social Media profile pictures, however, this could be an add on as it is, again, another graphic design job.

How to Learn Anything In 20 Hours

Myself and my husband have always had one subject in which we are completely different and incompatible.

Our learning techniques.

I learn as per my needs. When I learned web design, I only learnt as much coding as was needed for the current project I was working on. Of course, over 15 years of designing websites and blogs this knowledge increased sufficiently. Same applies for graphic design and the use of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (amazing platforms, but not very straightforward to use). Same applies to digital marketing. Same applies to music, dressmaking and performing I did as a child. I only learn what I need and as much as I need.

My dear husband doesn’t. He needs to understand the whole scope of subject first and then spend a lot of time learning all possible techniques and usages. Often this takes way too much time, and to me the acquired skills are hard to implement in the real life or the needs of our clients. I am not saying it is wrong. This is just what he is, and he has proved in his past that it works for him. He mastered the bass guitar so much that he had a reputation of the best bass player in Ireland in his time. When he went for his Masters in Music Technology, he has shown the best results ever in the history of the course and was offered a teaching position immediately.  He is one of the most skilled music producers out there, as per Jason Goldstein’s remark: “This man’s knowledge of music production is the most advanced I have ever seen” (Jason is a multiple Grammy winner sound engineer, based in New York).

However, in my opinion, unless your goal is to become the best at something, learning the fundamental principles and skills of anything does not need to require so much time and attention.

I wrote a blog earlier about the danger of outsourcing the stuff you have no clue about to other people and agencies. Mastering the fundamentals of everything you need gives you power to delegate confidently and retain control over the expectations and the results of what is being delivered.

Most Solopreneurs say “I have no time for this”, but I must stress that understanding every aspect of your business is the secret sauce of your success! Understand, and then hire people who play at what you have to work at. In other words, concentrate only on what you love doing, and get help doing things that take too much time or simply are not your cup of tea. BUT learn to understand them first.

Watch this short TEDx talk how to do it:

The Secret Sauce Of Outsourcing

Running your business on your own is a challenge, especially if you understand the importance of 80/20 rule – 80% of all your activity should be marketing and sales. (more…)

How To Share Opencart Products On Facebook – With Images!

Anyone who owns or manages Opencart based e-commerce store knows what a pain it is to share any of the products on Facebook. The images just never picked up from the page and you have to manually download the image to reupload it to Facebook. Annoying, unproductive and time consuming!


Here is a little trick I would like to share with you. It might save you much time, but this way if a link is ever shared again – it will appear just as it is intended. No more messing about.

Let me introduce you to Facebook Sharing Debugger! Easy in a few steps:

First – enter the link into the sharing debugger and click DEBUG:

If the link has never been previously shared before, you might see the following message:

How To Share Opencart Products On Facebook

Click on “Fetch new information button”

When the results show, sometimes there might be some warnings from Facebook, due to not recognising this or that meta tag. Opencart is a bit tricky to modify to please Facebook completely , but do not get hooked up on that part, unless they are something like this, telling you exactly what the problem is:

If this is the case go back to your installation and change the name of the image. Take the point on board and train anyone who deals with products on your site to never have spaces in the product names.

If this was not the warning in your case, just look below where Facebook will show you a link preview:


If you still see no image, here is Click on “Scrape Again” Button. And again. i noticed it takes a couple of times to actually get the image to show.

How To Share Opencart Products On Facebook

Now get back to your Facebook page and share the link to that product:

How To Share Opencart Products On Facebook

Voila! This link will work from now on anytime anyone decides to share it.

Now what do you do to get all your products share properly? Surely you cannot spend hours debugging and scrapeing every one of them? Not to worry, let me show you the Batch Invalidator. See the link on the very top, where you entered your first URL? It is just there to the right of the Sharing Debugger, and you can upload up to 50 URL’s at a time (separated by space) and debug those in batches. But do watch out for those nasty spaces in the image name. 90% of sharing issues are caused just by those little buggers. Get used to hyphens or underscores. Good luck and happy sharing your products on Facebook!

 

How To Spot Scam SEO And Website Service Proposal Emails

EZ Marketing- Digital Marketing, SEO, Website Management, Web Design Gorey, Co. Wexford

How To Spot Scam SEO And Website Service Proposal Email

This is a topic that is very close to my heart as I’ve had one too many discussions with some of my clients, who are opening, reading and often falling for the numerous SEO Proposals, Poor Ranking Warnings [Scares], Web Development services, Website Audits and Domain Renewal Alerts that  regularly flood email inbox of every business I know, including my own.

Have you ever got an email from a plumber telling you that your taps are leaking, and that you need to employ them as soon as possible otherwise you will be flooded within hours and will end up living on the street for the rest of your life? No? Do you know why?

First of all, you know for a fact if the taps are leaking or not. Then, there is a big difference in a leaking tap and a burst pipe – you will not lose your home over a leaking tap (only if you get a massive water bill you that cannot afford to pay, but this is a story for another time.)

SEO industry is probably the least transparent area of digital marketing. It deals with one the world’s most complicated online systems, competing with millions of other businesses for the few top rankings on page #1 on most business related keywords. Unfortunately, often search engine optimisation (for organic rankings) results are not really quantifiable, your ROI cannot be measured in exact figures  and there are certainly no guaranteed deliverables within a set time-frame. (Definitely no short-term success can ever be achieved – this is a time-consuming, painstaking process, that requires long-term commitment and strategic planning and implementation. This is before hoping that Google will acknowledge the effort sooner rather than later.)

With Google algorithms evolving all the time, sometimes adapting to the changes might require a complete U-turn from what you were doing before. There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to ranking on page one on Google. Brian Dean from Backlinco has compiled the list of 200 factors that may affect your rankings, only a part of them you have control over ( like page-level and site-level optimisation) or any influence on improving (backlinks and user-interaction).  A large proportion of ranking factors you have little or no control of what-so-ever. All you can do is monitor them and do your best to adjust.

I set out to write this article to pull apart some scam SEO proposals to help my readers spot them straight away. ( I personally do not even ever open those- these emails are what that SPAM button is for. Reputable SEO agencies never send out unsolicited emails. When you even consider opening one of them – you have just wasted your precious time making a decision to look through an email like that already)

However, since you opened it – I would like to give you 5 things to watch out for to spot a scam marketing email at a glance.

Here an email I just got a couple of day ago, I highlighted the dodgy parts in red:

 

——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Tina Sharma <tina.css@outlook.com>
Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 1:02 PM
Subject: SEO Service – GUARANTEED Page 1 Ranking‏ !!!
To:

Hi,
Hope you are well,
I was surfing through your Website and realized that despite having a great design; it was not ranking on any of the search engines (Google Yahoo and Bing Twitter) for most of the keywords relating to your business.
We provide you SEO, SMO and PPC Services with the following essential parameters: –

01. Follow complete guideline of Search Engine.
02. Assured Keyword Ranking Top 10 Listing in the Search Engine.
03. SEO Weekly Report.
04. Complete Website Optimization.
05. No Hidden Cost.
06. Local Listing in Google/Yahoo/MSN.
07. Social Media Optimization.
08. Directory Submission.
09. Social Book-marking Sharing.
10. Oriented Article Writing.
11. Article Submission.
12. Classified Ads.

Please do let me know if you are interested and have any questions. Waiting for your reply!

Thanks & Regards
Tina Sharma
Online Business Executive

Note:- If this is something you are interested, please respond to this email. If this is not your interest, don’t worry, we will not send you email again.

 

  1. THERE IS NO COMPANY NAME IN THE SENDERS EMAIL ADDRESS OR SIGNATURE

Have a look at the sender’s email address (this one is from tina.css@outlook.com – I have actually received emails from people whose email address had one name and the signature – a completely different name! This morning I received a proposal for some web development from a guy with an email address combinationovens@gmail.com… Combination Ovens? Web development? REALLY????)

Funny, how an “Online Business Executive” [what is that anyway?] uses an Outlook, Gmail or Hotmail account for their business email address. Mail boxes are very affordable and often come unlimited with most hosting packages.  Let’s say Online Business Executive is a valid position within a company, but there is no mention of the company name or a link to their website anywhere in the email. (Even if there was something, the company that sends you any proposals out of the blue needs to be researched with suspicion before any reply is made. Again, reputable SEO agencies never send unsolicited emails. They advertise (pay their own money) to promote their services if they need to. )

Also this particular email was not even sent directly to us. See how there is no email address visible after TO: (it should have been addressed to info@ezmarketing.ie)?  This is simply because the list of recipients was entered in a BCC field (or using some dodgy bulk mail software) , which allows the scammers to send these scam emails to hundreds of businesses at once.

  1. THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE

This one is a little more complex, as the example above is a 100% generic email, but I often get some with the actual website address of my business mentioned. (Once in case of a client, who is an online retailer, the link behind their website name was actually leading to a completely different website of a furniture producer in the United States!)

How To Spot Scam SEO And Website Design Proposals Emails

The statement about you not ranking on “most of the keywords related to your business” makes my blood boil, honestly.

Our website is ranking #1 on page one on the keywords I optimised it to rank. And that’s that. I did it.

(Also what is “Google Bing”? Or “Yahoo Twitter”? Some new search engines? I only know Google. Bing. Yahoo. Twitter.) Seriously, are they just dropping the words we know in a random order?

It takes hours, days of research to determine what are the most important strategic keywords for your particular business type. You need to research your ideal client, your target location, audience, problems you might help the clients solve. Why would any professional spend all this time for free, just to send out an email (as they admit at the end of the email , they know you might even never reply to)? I know what this time costs and believe me – there is no way I would spend it researching a business that has potentially no interest in hiring me. Would you? Really?

  1. ESSENTIAL PARAMETERS

This is one of those lists of services/promises that crack me up… every time.

It is a collection of [often not even real] digital marketing terms you do not know, but most likely heard of something similar, so it makes the email look very serious. I love how they entered No Hidden Costs as a service and then mentioned Classified Ads and Directory submissions. Most of the ones that count are not free at all (especially Google Adwords), so there will be definitely extra costs involved. As for Submission to Thousands of Search Engines service that might be also included, over 95% off searches are made through Google, Bing & Yahoo, there is no point wasting time on small players, they will make no difference.

And by the way, the nonsense starts from number one – “Follow complete guideline of Search Engine” – this is the saddest part, seriously!

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Google released a complete official guideline for SEO (not to mistake with Backlinco blog post I mentioned before). However, I doubt it would make any difference- if you check Brian’s article, you will see what I mean – so many factors are completely outside your control.

  1. GUARANTEED PAGE #1 RANKINGS

This is a funny one. For a new business ( just a couple of years old), unless it is a niche business with low online competition level, appearing on page one will take probably a couple of years to enter page one, and this is with correct  page-wise and site-wise optimisation, regularly updated dynamic content and great user-engagement optimisation.  You need longevity and a bit of more history with Google to rank well.  The longer you are online the better your chances are (provided all your main URLs are unchanged too – again, this is a subject for whole new article).

  1. THEY WILL SAY ANYTHING TO SHAKE YOUR CONFIDENCE

I have to use a different Spam email example, that I received just as I was working on this article. Again this one was received from emma.adams@gmail.com and has no mention or a link back to her company website.

 

Dear owner of www.ezmarketing.ie

I’m sure you have been contacted in this matter many times before but our value proposition is much different. We show the client results before we ask for any further commitment.

As a business owner you might be interested to gain profit by placing your website among top in search engines.

Your website needs immediate improvement for some major issues with your website.
Low online presence for many competitive keyword phrases
Unorganized social media accounts (?????)
Not compatible with all mobile devices
-Many bad back links to your website

I have selected your website www.ezmarketing.ie and prepared a FREE website audit report.  This is for you, completely free at no charge.

If my proposal sound’s interesting for your business goal, feel free to email me, or can provide me with your phone number and the best time to call you. I am also available for an online meeting to present you this website audit report.

I look forward to hearing from you – thanks!

Best Regards,
Emma Adams
Marketing Consultant

PS: I am not spamming. I have studied your website, prepared an audit report and believe I can help with your business promotion. If you still want us to not contact you, you can ignore this email or ask to remove and I will not contact again.

If Emma had actually audited my website and social media channels, she’d see that we provide SEO services ourselves and we are not likely to respond to a contact form request for SEO help. And, oh yes! She is Spamming – if they want to show results before commitment, why didn’t they just email me the ” absolutely free SEO report” she insists she has prepared after studying our website? I could then see all the issues explained in detail and decide if I want to hire this company.

But there was no results shown before commitment. None. Whatsoever.

In fact it was full of lies. EZ Marketing website ranks well as I mentioned before on all important for our leads generation keywords. We simply have no bad backlinks; it is easy to check your backlinks – there are so many free online tools available online to check your backlinks and basic SEO score too.

“Not compatible with ALL mobile devices” [that ALL sounds very scary]. Our site is highly mobile compatible. Most of my clients use their mobile devices to browse the internet, I know how important it is for my website to look good and be easy to navigate on the phone (or I will never get any enquiries)

THE SUMMARY

  • A respectable Digital Marketing company, SEO agency or Web Developer will never reach out to you first. Use a Spam button on anyone who does.
  • Any chance of a new domain reaching the top of page #1 when it comes to organic listings one fast are practically non existing. In our experience only domains with 5+ years history with Google can really benefit from an SEO push and rank in the top 4-6 listings.
  • SEO results will show within the next couple of years, minimum after 6 months.

SEO cannot be just about your website – digital marketing must address the business as a whole, know and understand the target audience and business goals. It has to be all about generating more business with your website and sometimes it is not just about your position in Google search listings, but much more about direct marketing and strategic paid traffic acquisition.

P.S.: Please use that Spam button more often!