Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

Suzanne McBride

The Cowbell Agency

Is your website under attack (or can it be?)

The average website is Cyber Attacked 44 times per day!

With the recent cyber-attacks fresh on everyone’s minds, now is a good time to think about the security of your website. Hackers are far more sophisticated, automated and organized these days. They root out vulnerabilities in web servers and share them with the expanding hacker universe. What’s worse is that hacked websites can be blacklisted by Google as dangerous and go dark with online searches. To battle this, we offer a couple of services that can help ease your mind.

First, you have an SSL on your site. Perfect! But that’s the minimum that should be done. But what else can be done?

Monthly Website Maintenance:

Cowbell Agency will perform monthly maintenance on your site, such as keeping plugins updated, scan for malware, performance tests, site backups, among other services. Outdated plugins can not only bring your site down, but worse–make it vulnerable for cyber-attacks.  Almost 2/3’s of WordPress website vulnerabilities are caused by out of date or sketchy plugins/themes. Remember, just like you take your car in for maintenance, websites require the same love and attention as your car. 

Security/Firewall Protection

We work with GoDaddy with their Website Security Program. The firewall blocks attacks on the site while the malware scanner searches your site for malicious content and alerts you if any are found.

Contact us if you are interested in a quote or have any questions.

info@cowbellagency.com

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

This month, Google will be releasing a new update to how they rank pages in SERPs (search engine results pages). Among many other ranking factors, Core Web Vitals will now be included in determining page rank. But what are core web vitals, and how will this change how pages are ranking now? To better understand this update, we should break down what Core Web Vitals are, and the metrics on which we focus.

Core Web Vitals (as determined by Google) are three page speed metrics that can measure user experience on a given website. Those three page speed metrics are: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). These three metrics can be attributed to a page’s load speed, user interactivity, and visual stability respectively. Let’s look at each one:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – How long it takes to load a full viewport of a page. This should be below 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID) – How long before a user on a page can interact with elements on it. This should stay below 100 ms.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – A value attributed to how much elements on a page move while others are loading. This should stay below a factor of 0.1.

What Does This All Mean?

Google has done their research, and has seen that users prefer sites that load faster and are easier to use. Pretty simple, but accommodating these changes can become laborsome. Luckily there are tools to measure these factors like LightHouse and PageSpeed Insights. There is also a new section in Google Search Console dedicated to Core Web Vitals, so site owners can hear back from Google exactly what they think needs to be improved on individual sites.

Overall this change is designed to force site owners to design with the user’s experience in mind, which is a great thing. It is not difficult to find sites that are slow, unresponsive, or just not user friendly. If you’re worried about how your page ranking will be affected with this coming update, email us, or give us a call here at the Cowbell Agency.

Understanding and Measuring the ROI of SEO

Understanding and Measuring the ROI of SEO

Understanding and Measuring the ROI of SEO

Adam Latham
The Cowbell Agency

Communicating the true ROI of programs like SEO can sometimes be difficult. I recently completed a White Paper that looked at several different key metrics that can easily be measured in real-world dollars, which then allow an easy calculation based on the investment in SEO activity.

The program used for this study was a client that recently completed the first four months of an ongoing SEO program.  The strategy and tactics were developed by myself and colleague Owen Yorio (fast becoming a young SEO Jedi).  The resulting benefits could be measured both in monthly organic search traffic, annual organic search traffic, non-branded organic search traffic, and closing those gaps with their competitors.

If that sounded at all confusing (because you have a life), it probably won’t be after you’ve read.

The ROI of this program ranged from 3X to nearly 10X

Download White Paper: Understanding the ROI of SEO

Read on LinkedIn

 

Is Your Website at Risk of ADA Ligation?

Is Your Website at Risk of ADA Ligation?

Is Your Website at Risk of ADA Ligation?

Suzanne McBride

The Cowbell Agency

ADA (American Disabilities Act) was signed into law in 1990, and is America’s most important law regarding accessibility and civil rights for people with disabilities, including web accessibility.

U.S. courts apply ADA and its accessibility requirements websites.  The Guidelines for web accessibility covers the 4 principles:

  • Perceivable (how one perceives content through sight, sound and touch
  • Operable (the way someone can use the site)
  • Understandable (how easy is it to understand)
  • Robust  (does coding meet standards, etc)

Rise in Litigation:

Since 2017, the number of ADA title III-related lawsuits skyrocketed – with small and medium business being in the center of the storm.

Why are there so many ADA lawsuits?

There are a few reasons why ADA web accessibility has become such a hot legal topic in just the last few years, including the spread in awareness about web accessibility requirements. Experts estimate that approximately 40,000 demand letters were sent in 2018, and 2019 has peaked with over 100,000 demand letters and over 10,000 lawsuits. 

Since it’s almost inevitable that the court would find in favor of the plaintiff, small business owners often feel that they have no choice but to settle out of court. The cost of defending a lawsuit would destroy even a medium-sized business, but the average settlement agreement still comes to $35,000.

Who has to comply with the ADA?

There’s a common misbelief that ADA only applies to very large corporations, but that’s a serious mistake. All types and all sizes of businesses have to comply with ADA legislation, for their customers, and for their employees if there are over 15 employees. That means that ADA affects:

  • Places of entertainment like theaters, movie theaters, and concert halls
  • Restaurants and eateries
  • Small and medium businesses of all types
  • Large enterprises
  • Retail stores
  • Local government offices, employment agencies, and labor unions

Here’s how Cowbell can help:

We can run a no cost audit of your site to see if there are any issues.  If so, we can add the ADA software for a free 7 day trial period, and if you decide to stay with the plan, the cost is $490/year, plus small set up fee.

Why Chat Rules

Why Chat Rules

Why Chat Rules

Adam Latham
The Cowbell Agency

Why does chat rule? Well, the answer to that question is simple, and it is the same reason why no one over thirty is really considered “cool.”

Ever looked at how the next generation communicates? They’ve got their head in their phones constantly, and they’re chatting.

The generation just before them seemed to live in email. And the divide is getting greater as we become more chat-entrenched. As someone with teenage children or grandchildren if they are more likely to get a response by text than any other form of communication.

Major corporations realized this a long time ago, moving a lot of their customer interaction to chat. And here’s the surprising thing. An automated bot in chat isn’t nearly as annoying as an automated voice system. I don’t know why that is. It just is.

And now, there are finally a whole host of platforms out there that small to midsize companies can implement to both improve their customer relationships and lighten their workload. And the costs are typically less than an expensed lunch a month.

So the question isn’t really “should I be using chat?”, but rather, “what’s the best way to be using chat?”

At Cowbell we’ve looked at a number of easy-to-install plugins for most websites, and here’s what we’ve found.

There are two basic levels: 1) I just want to chat, or 2) I want to actually embrace chat and use it as a competitive advantage.

For those who want to “embrace chat” for all it can deliver, we’ve recently discovered a tool that actually replaces most of your lead nurturing and similar drip campaign platforms. It uses an “omni chat” feature that links your facebook messenger to your website chat. This not only means they can chat to you in an environment they’re familiar with, but they are instantly a lead in your CRM. 

You can also configure pre-programmed bots to help your customers quickly get to the information they need without someone on your team having to hold their hand.

Let me make sure we’re completely clear about this. I didn’t mention CRM to scare you away. I’m not talking about having to invest into a holistic software solution for customer relations and lead nurturing.  The chat tool itself IS its own CRM. 

In other words, once they begin a chat conversation with you, they are converted. They are a lead, and all of their contact information, like name, email address or phone number that they have on Facebook, is now attached to their record in your chat tool. 

In the backend, we can develop a whole series of drip campaigns that can run directly through the facebook messenger or through SMS text. In other words you are communicating with your customers in the space they actively communicate throughout their day.

If this sounds too good to be true, it gets even better. Imagine if you will, that you are running an online banner ad campaign and someone is on a mobile device. And, someone then clicks on that ad. What if, instead of going to a landing page, they were launched immediately into a chat session with someone on your team. And, you immediately had all of their contact information and were in your system as a lead. You didn’t have to worry about whether they would find your call-to-action on your landing page. There is no landing page! 

In fact, conversions through chat are now as much as 10X greater through landing page or email-based drip campaigns. Why? Because…and some marketing professionals may be afraid to admit this… we have moved past the email-to-landing page-to-contact list paradigm. We are now in the instant mobile chat phase, and those who recognize that first will reap the lion share of benefits.

If you want to learn more about how the different chat platforms work and which one is best for your business needs, contact us at Cowbell, or better yet…why not just chat.

 

Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

Adam Latham
The Cowbell Agency

Understanding the Proactive Review Management Process

As Bob Dylan once opined, “the times, they are a-changin’.” And one of the industries that has seen the most radical changes in the last ten years has been marketing and brand management.

It is almost hard to imagine how well major corporation did at controlling their brand perception. Through just the right focus on PR, a few high-visibility sponsorships and events, you knew all the corporations wanted you to know about them. Barring some major news event or tabloid expose, the corporations were in charge of their brand.

Those days are gone. Now, the true managers of a company’s brand is its customers. For good or bad, social media has allowed customers to talk and exchange information about companies whenever they want. All it takes is one #ABCWidgetrippedmeoff and a scathing blog post, and next thing you know, everyone has their own story. Before long, decades of paid-for public relations is toast.

For consumers, this is a good thing. For companies, it is scary as hell. For PR companies and marketing agencies, it means we have change our strategies.

The Cowbell Agency has taken an effective and somewhat radical approach to maintaining a positive online reputation. We start with the assumption that customers are going to talk about you. They are going to leave reviews. And if they are angry, they are going to want to vent to somebody.

Given that assumption, you want to be proactive and soliciting feedback from customers as often as possible. Because if for any reason they are upset with you, you want them to talk to you about it instead of their facebook friends or potential customers on Yelp.

You do this by being disciplined. Depending on your business, you want to ask customers for feedback as soon after your interaction as possible. We recommend a system that sends text messages and emails that not only solicit feedback, but allows them to give you a star rating from 1-to-5. This way, you get a pretty good idea what star rating they would give you on Google, Facebook or Yelp.

Their reply to you flows into a dashboard environment that allows you to see each and every comment, and then respond back to customers as soon as possible. If there are issues you can rectify or smooth over. Do it here, and do it quickly, before they have an opportunity to make their angry post or review.

By the time you’re done with this interaction, you have a pretty good idea what kind of rating they would give you at those public, third party review sites. It is at this time you can, if you so desire, try to encourage them to share their feelings about you.

This solves two major issues: 1) it builds your database of reviews which will help lessen the impact of the negative reviews, and 2) allows reviewers to judge your company on your entire customer service approach, which now includes your attempt to engage them and satisfy their needs.

The other approach I characterize is more of a “fix on failure” policy. You, as the business owner, just sit back and hope your customers are saying good things about you. When you see one come across, and it is a 1-star, you get all angry. You try to remember who the heck this angry customer was. You read the review and you frantically try to figure out if there is a way to remove it. After all, this person is obviously crazy.

But guess what. You can’t. And since you don’t have a pro-active, review-encouraging process, it just sits there…for days. Maybe weeks. Maybe even months. And every time someone searches for a business like yours, there it is, staring every potential customer right in the eye, that 1-star review from hell. You sit there again, passively, hoping someone else would review your company to push that one down the page.

Our systematic approach provides a framework for the type of disciplined internal processes that put you proactively in charge of your online review management and can be implemented in just a few short hours.

 

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