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Tech Buzz at its best

How Managed Services IT Saves You Time and Money

In the last few years, managed services agreements have changed the way IT is delivered – for both technology companies and our clients. The result has been a “win-win” for everyone, with companies getting more effective service at a lower price.

But, since some business owners and executives still don’t understand managed services, we’d like to take a moment to give you a quick overview of what you need to know…

The first thing you have to have is an understanding of how managed services actually works in the first place. The basic idea is that, instead of paying for billable hours every time you need technical help, you opt for a managed services plan that covers all of your IT needs for a given period of time. So instead of calling your vendor when you need repairs or encounter errors, you get regular service on an as-needed basis.

Because of that change, two great things can happen:

With Managed Services, You Get Better IT Care

When your IT partner doesn’t have to wait for you to call, they can be more proactive in assessing your hardware and software, dealing with any potential issues before they become problems. That’s a great thing for businesses because it means they can avoid outages and emergency billable hours, and it’s great for us because it means we can anticipate needs rather than trying to make last-minute repairs while under pressure to get a business running again.

Managed Services Lets You Plan Your IT Budget

If there’s one thing business owners and executives hate about IT, it’s the unpredictable costs. When things are running smoothly, you might pay nothing for your technology. But the minute something breaks, your IT budget goes out the window. With a managed services agreement, however, costs are predictable from month to month. That means you can forecast a budget without having to worry about unexpected jolts and emergency IT bills.

Although some business people don’t like the idea of paying for IT care every month when they aren’t used to it, a managed services agreement is virtually guaranteed to save you money over time. Not only is it going to lower your overall IT costs, but it’s also likely to make you and your team more productive than you’ve been in the past because you no longer have to worry about technology problems slowing you down.

To learn more about managed services, and what a customized plan for your business would look like, contact the Kinetik IT team today!

3 Great Small Business Uses for Twitter

As a cool way to communicate and share information, Twitter almost seems like an old staple by now. In fact, it's hard to remember how we ever lived without it! As a tool for online marketing, however, things are still a little bit murky. Even Dell, a massive company with an extensive social media department and enormous resources, recently admitted that they essentially had to guess how much money they were (or weren’t) making from their Twitter activities.

Because that kind of confusion can make it hard for small business owners to know how, when, and how often to take advantage of Twitter, we would like to offer you three great ways to take advantage of the platform:

To share breaking news and announcements. Because tweets can travel so quickly, and be spread with a minimum of effort or input, it makes sense to share new developments through Twitter. In fact, Twitter can even be a faster way to spread the word than e-mail can, so make sure to make it is the backbone of your announcement strategy.

To answer common questions from customers and colleagues. Yes, there should be an FAQ section on your website, but if you seem to find yourself responding to the same issues over and over, why not turn it into a tweet? Not only will you get some exposure, but it could help your explanation to be indexed by search engines, too.

To announce sales and specials. This is probably the most popular use, and one you should definitely take advantage of. Notice that we put it last, however; constantly broadcasting offers to buy something is perhaps the quickest way to lose followers and turn happy customers into uninterested strangers. Twitter can be a great tool for promoting your business, but only if you have other things to say once in a while, too.

What is Your Online Marketing Video Missing?

If you aren't already marketing your company and its products to online videos, then stop and ask yourself why not. Not only is YouTube garnering more than 2 billion hits per day, effectively making it the world's second-largest search engine, but it's been a breakthrough marketing platform for all kinds of businesses all over the world.

Unfortunately, however, not all of the videos companies produce have the effect that was intended. More often than not, it's not because the message was off or are there wasn't any interest, but because the marketer was missing an essential element. Here are three things missing from a lot of small business online marketing videos:

Professional editing. Unless it's something wildly entertaining – like two cats boxing to the theme of a popular movie – most people aren't going to take the time to watch your video if it looks like it was shot on a camcorder in your garage. Don't skimp on the scripting and editing of your online marketing video; you’re only cutting back on the results you get.

A call to action. What is it you want people to do after they have seen your video on YouTube or elsewhere? Is it to buy a product, to request more information, or something else altogether? You have to decide this beforehand, and make the next step very clear to the viewer. Otherwise, all they're going to do is click on to the next video.

Your contact information. While this might seem like the same thing, it's actually important that you display any pertinent link of telephone number for at least 5 seconds at the end of your video clip. It should also be the last image that stays on the screen when the video is finished playing. It's a small point, but one that can boost your response rate significantly.

Why Remote Backups Make Your Company Safer

Remote backups have become the most popular (and cost-effective) way for companies to keep their data safe in the last few years. And yet, a lot of businesses are fighting this trend. Some are doing so out of the sheer reluctance to embrace change, while others mistakenly believe that they are better protected with tape backup drives and other in-office solutions.

If you fall into either of those categories, we want to tell you that now is the time to start thinking differently. Switching to a remote backup system makes your business and its data much, much more secure. Here are just a few of the most important reasons why:

You’re Safer From Accidents 

When you rely on backup drives within your own office, you’re essentially betting that anything that destroys your saved files is going to somehow leave your backup drive unaffected. That’s just not realistic. Every year, millions of businesses lose data to floods, fires, tornadoes, break-ins, and other issues. Having your data stored safely at a remote location gives you an extra layer of redundancy you might need some day.

Our Cloud Facility Is More Secure Than Your Office

Most business offices have only a minimal amount of security, and even less protection for sensitive computer equipment. A remote backup cloud facility, on the other hand, has the proper ventilation, climate control, automated fire response, on-site security personnel, 24/7 monitoring by trained IT professionals, and enormous backup power reserves. That means your files are far more protected in our cloud facility than they would ever be sitting on a drive in your office or facility.

It’s Much Harder to Steal Data From a Cloud Facility

A lot of business people worry that their data is going to be stolen when it’s transmitted back and forth through the cloud. However, because your stored files are sent to our facility using bank-level encryption, they are highly unlikely to be compromised. Chances are, our security is several times stronger than anything you use in your business communications or data storage.

Remote Backups Get You Working Again Faster

It’s not unusual to find that, after an incident in which data is lost, a company is unable to retrieve or use their own backups. In contrast, our remote backup systems are tested and validated regularly. We have set procedures designed to get you back up and running as quickly as possible, so you can be online at full strength and back to profitability much faster than you would otherwise.

How Should You Set A Pay Per Click Budget?

Used correctly, pay per click advertising can be one of the best, and fastest, ways to bring qualified prospects to your website. It's not always as cost-effective as organic search engine optimization, of course, but it does have some distinct advantages: namely, that you can have it up and running in minutes, and that you can specify any landing page that you want, making changes and testing them instantly.

But one thing that a lot of online marketers struggle with is determining the right spending level for their PPC campaigns. Paying too much, and you're basically pouring money down a funnel; commit too little, and you'll never see results.

Here are three quick tips for setting your pay per click budget on Google, Yahoo, and Bing:

Measure sales closely. Ultimately, the decision about how much to spend should come down to the issue of how much you're earning in return. If it's coming back to you in new sales almost immediately, then don't stop as long as it's profitable; if not, then ask yourself why, and set your budget accordingly in the meantime.

Measure other activity. In some industries, a successful "hit" from the pay per click campaign might not lead to an immediate sale. That's why it's so important to track the source of new business, as well as residual effects over time. Just because someone doesn't call or pick up the phone right away doesn't mean they won't later. Often, a PPC campaign can be more profitable than you first think when you get the chance to look at the big picture.

Don't bid all out for no reason. Obviously, the first ad position on any page is going to get the most hits, all things being considered. But what a lot of marketers don't realize is that the second, third, and even eighth positions can get a lot of traffic too – especially in certain markets where there's a lot of competition. That means it doesn't always make sense to pay for the top spots. Try bidding for a few different positions and see how your results are affected – you might find that you can get a much bigger return by having your ad displayed a bit lower in the results.

Four Ways to Evaluate Every Page on Your Website

For all the attention paid to things like social activity and search-optimized blog posts, it’s easy to forget that the static pages on your website – like the home page, about page, and product pages – still have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to your Internet marketing plan. After all, it’s likely new and potential customers will view these a lot more frequently than they will your ongoing posts, which means they could make or break the profitability of your website.

But how do you know if your static pages are well written and designed? Here are four easy criteria you can use to judge their quality and effectiveness:

1. Is it easy to find? This might seem like a no-brainer, but no one can react to a page on your website if they can’t find it. Internal linking and menu structure are important here, but so are the appropriate search engine keywords. You can’t control the flow of traffic within your website itself, so things like clear navigation and a prominent “search” box can go a long way toward helping visitors find what they’re looking for.

2. Is it easy to scan and read? People love images, headlines, subheads, and lots of white space on a web page. What they hate are long blocks of text, confusing design elements, and pages that seem complicated. The simplicity of your page touches on both the layout and the copywriting, but the two elements should work together to create an impression that your content is easy to scan and understand.

3. Does it have a specific point and audience? Every web page you have should be tied to a specific audience (that is, what kind of viewer you’re hoping to attract to the page) and a point or purpose. The old rule of thumb to “keep to one idea or topic per page” still applies. You’re much better off having a two- or three-tiered navigation structure with simple, easy-to-understand pages than you are cramming multiple thoughts into a single longer section.

4. Is there a clear call to action? Make it as easy as possible for visitors to register for information, schedule appointments, make a purchase, or complete some other action when they reach the end of your web page. Having too many choices can confuse visitors, but there should be at least one or two options for them to continue and take the next step. That’s helpful for searchers who need answers, and the best way to get leads or customers from your pages.

Of course, when it comes to judging the pages on your website, nothing beats a thorough review of your web analytics to see how actual buyers are responding to them. Still, looking at these four questions should give you a quick sense of whether you’re moving in the right direction or not.

Should You Ever Consider Moving Your Domain for SEO?

Of all the things that go into search engine optimization, one of the most important is one that a lot of business owners never really thought much about at the time, at least not in terms of Google's preferences: their website's domain. 

More often than not, URLs are chosen simply because they're simple, mirror the name of the business, or were just available at the time. Who knew that the right keywords in a domain may help make it to the top of search engine listings? Should you consider moving your website to a new domain just for the search engine benefits?

In most cases, the answer is no. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most important is that new domains aren't given as much weight by Google, Yahoo, and Bing as ones that have been around for a while. In other words, the longer you hang around, the better you're doing.

Besides that, changing domains typically means updating all kinds of links, working with your hosting company to get the content moved, and going through a long and painful process where some customers can’t find you at all… and that's assuming you can find a better URL that's available, which is no easy trick these days.

In fact, the only time we would really recommend moving to a new domain name would be when you're very new and haven't made much progress yet, or when your current URL is close to a bigger brand, or one that people have some sort of negative association with. In other words, unless your domain was registered last week or is actively hurting business, you're probably better off building your search engine profile through new content, social media profiles, and other methods than you are picking up and heading for greener pastures.

Your Customers Don't Need More News, They Need Better Insight

Even a few years ago, standard advice from a web designer online marketing team would be to start a blog and RSS feed on your website, and to populate both with company or industry news as often as possible. After all, what better way to keep people informed and build your own content profile at the same time then by giving them a constant taste of what's going on the world?

That makes sense, until you fast-forward a handful of years and find that everyone's doing it.

In fact, with the sheer number of news sites out there, RSS feeds available, and even real-time search engine updates, the problem isn't that people are having any trouble finding what's going on, but that it's hard to sort through all the news and find information.

With that in mind, one easy way for you to set your website and business apart from all its competitors is by giving visitors what they really crave: insight and advice, rather than a steady stream of data. Unless your customers are living in a cave, they already know what's going on – what they want from you is a better sense of what new developments mean to them.

That means populating your site with columns, blog posts, and other updates that center on sound business advice. Don't just tell people what you saw, fill them in on what it means to them, what future implications could be, how they might profit from it in the future, and so on. Before long, you'll find that you won't have to seek visitors just through search engines and online newsletters, because they'll be telling each other about you and showing up on their own.

There were plenty of places for people to go and find news online, and they probably do the job better than your company could. But what no one can duplicate is your specific industry knowledge and insight, so keep that in mind and give your customers what it is they really want.

Why Your Facebook Fan Page Can Be A More Powerful Sales Tool Than Your Own Home Page

When social media marketing first arrived as a prime time way to find new business (which for most of us, was right around the time Facebook announced it had more than 400 million users and Twitter was gaining ground quickly), the immediate goals most companies had was to pick up new followers and steer them towards the company's website.

Should that still be the case?

Maybe. For a lot of businesses of all sizes, a Facebook fan page can actually be a more powerful sales tool than anything on their own site. We could throw a handful of metrics at you to explain our reasoning, but it really comes down to one simple thing: believability.

When potential customers visit your Facebook fan page, they see all kinds of great things about your business that were written by other people – in some cases, even people they know. Being able to put a face with those impressions is undeniable; they might not trust you, or "Jane from Dubuque," but you can bet they put faith in the opinions of their friends and family. Or, in the opinions of people who seem a lot like their friends and family, rather than strangers who have given anonymous testimonials.

The net effect is that the Facebook fan page can quickly become the ultimate word-of-mouth sales tool, even if customers stumble across it on their own. They'll still find all the basic facts about your business, including a link to your website, but it's all going to be reinforced by third-party opinions.

If you want to use a higher percentage of the traffic that comes your way on the Internet, consider expanding your company's Facebook fan page and steering people in that direction. It might seem a little counter intuitive to take them away from your website, but you might just be pulling them deeper into your strongest marketing asset.