Domain Renewal Scams: iDNS Canada

You may or may not have gotten a letter from a company called iDNS Canada (also known as Internet Domain Name Services). iDNS is a company that preys on people who don’t fully understand the domain registration service by sending letters in the mail about their expiring domain and requests payment. This scam is very similar to the one that went a couple of years ago by the Domain Registry of Canada (DROC).

What this company is actually doing is scamming money from you and trying to transfer your domain away from your current provider, in order to try and scam more money from you later on. Here are some important things to note so you can avoid being scammed when it comes to your domain:

  • Real domain registration providers will never send you a letter in the mail.
  • Report any letters you receive to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)
  • Report all letters you receive for all domains to the Canadian Spam Reporting Centre

iDNS is not the first, or last, company to try doing this. If you are ever unsure about something, always ask your web provider first. Remember, if you are a Sync client, and we manage your domain, you will never lose it. So, you can sit back and relax because we’ll take care of it.

Example of the type of letter iDNS sends out:

iDNS Scam

5 Apps to Make Your Job Easier

Computer-Apps.jpg

Tech was supposed to make our lives easier, but it just seems like we're all so much busier. However, there is a silver lining to the integration of tech that has taken over our very being. Here, I list the top 5 apps that can make your 21st century worker bee lifestyle that much better. Dig in, and enjoy.

Trello

When you've got a team spread out throughout a city or even the world, it can be hard to keep track of a project or tasks. That's where Trello comes in, and surprisingly you get a versatile package for free. Of course, there are paid features, but truthfully we use Trello in the Sync office every single day, and it's kept us organized in a way that Evernote could never dream of.

Slack

The oddly named app is BBM, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger on steroids. Slack provides secure chat across various channels, and groups. There's also private messaging between colleges, file sharing, app integrations, and a plethora of other features. My only hang up is with the clunky sign-in and sign-up process. After you get past that though, you'll be hooked.

Google Drive

Gone are the days of Microsoft Office, their prices, and the headaches with their 365 products. Say hello to your new little but mighty friend. Google Drive is a free cloud based solution for document, spreadsheet, and presentation creation. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you have taken the tutorials you'll wonder why Office still exists.

Dropbox

Still messing around with multiple hard drives, trying to make space on your computer, or emailing files? Say no more, because Dropbox is here to save your world. For a surprisingly low annual rate, you can have your own private piece of the cloud. It's important to note that you will need an external HD to run Dropbox because the app does save local copies of the files (except on mobile). Once you've jumped over that hurdle though, it's clear running towards the finish line. A side note: if you have a lap top and want to run Dropbox, get those no residue velcro strips, and affix your HDD to the back of your lap top. With Dropbox, your team will always be in sync, your files will always be available, and you'll never have to utter the words, "I'll send you that file when I get to my computer".

TextExpander

Find yourself sending repetitive messages, or typing the same content many times over? I have the solution for you. You may be thinking, "But Jay, I copy and paste with the best of them." Well, copying and pasting is so 2012. This is 2017 and automation runs the world. TextExpander allows you to formulate any sized content with the stroke of a couple keys. I personally have a piece of content that's 24,000 characters. I use it all the time, and all I have to do is hit 2 keys for it to appear. No more searching, copying, pasting, modifying, or messing around with multiple snippets in many different places. Just expand on your text.

Conclusion

So there you have it. 5 apps that will change your workflow for the better. Go ... play. You won't regret it.

Next blog, I'll touch on hardware to help you reach new heights of productivity.

Disrupting the Disruption that is Advertising Online

It's an age old battle—the consumer vs the advertiser. When you watch TV, you'll get up during the commercials. At a game, you'll often ignore the ads on the screens. Lit up signage on top of cabs are basically background noise. Then there's online advertising and sponsored content, which cannot be so easily ignored.

This is because the ads you see (if done right) stem from your activity. In the case of Facebook, go and search out restaurants in your area and then try to avoid ads for exactly that. It's next to impossible.

While there has been an overall improvement in trust in advertising over the last three years, digital ad distrust still hovers around 39 percent, according to a recent YouGov poll.

Your brand relies on social advertising and sponsored content to feed the top, middle and bottom of the buying funnel. While these platforms offer excellent exposure, there is an inherent risk of the presence of your ads resulting in a negative impression of your brand to some consumers.

My goal at Sync is to make it so that your ads compliment online platforms. This article will touch on some of those points. Portions of this article are excerpts from an article written by Dan O'Brien.

Integrity!

Even though other advertisers inundate users on social platforms and media sites with click-bait, don’t allow your brand to do so. Ensure that your ads and sponsored content are true to your brand’s core product or service. Resist the urge to promote any posts or content that will garner a lot of interest or clicks, but not accurately represent your brand.

A good rule of thumb to follow when promoting editorial-based content is to not force a hard sell upon the reader. Don’t lure readers in with informative content and then try to force them to convert.

Another is to produce content that will educate or entertain the reader and provide legitimate editorial value. When you follow these rules, readers will feel they are reading content from a brand that is authoritative and thought-leading in its vertical.

Be Authentic

This tip is one that I cannot put enough emphasis on; your headlines must accurately depict the experience that the reader will be led to after they click. Otherwise, you end up paying for unqualified clicks and an unsatisfied reader.

Here is a trick I have used in the past. Present your headline concepts to an unbiased/uninformed third party. Have the person(s) write a brief synopsis of what they envision the content to be, based upon the headline. If you find that the perception of your content is unclear from your headlines, adjust headlines or content accordingly.

Drill Down

Many social and native advertising platforms allow for some level of blacklisting of media sites where you do not wish your ads to show. The most common capability is to enable advertisers to blacklist categories of media sites (e.g., adult, political, tech) An example of this type of barring of ad placements can be enabled on Facebook and Instagram’s Audience Network.

Some native ad networks enable advertisers to reverse-engineer the blacklisting approach, with a targeted whitelisting approach identifying sites where you prefer your ads to be shown. For example, if your brand sells wearable technology and would resonate well with a tech-engaged audience, you could use this whitelisting tactic to target buckets of similar tech-focused sites, or even just one site, and optimize independently of your other campaigns.

Be Creative

You can always find ways to reach your audience more effectively, and adopting a continual test-and-learn strategy ensures that your ad dollars continue to be well spent. Analyze engagement signals like Facebook relevance scores and intent signals like click-through rate (CTR), and iterate upon what’s working well.

Pay close attention to frequency, and look for any signs of audience fatigue, such as a decrease in CTR or an increase in CPM or CPC (cost per click).

Pro tip: Some social and native ad platforms will provide an “x out report” upon request. Reach out to your account representatives to learn which of your ads or headlines are producing the highest rate of users wishing to no longer see your ad.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Do not focus your efforts on a vanity metric such as click-through rate to determine whether your social ads and sponsored content are being well-received by your audience. Instead, use back-end measurement benchmarks that signify a qualified and high-quality visitor to your site or app.

Depending on the objective of your social ad or sponsored content placement, the measurable actions will differ. For purely editorial promotions, you should measure elements such as time on site and page views. For advertorial and direct response objectives, these measurable actions will take the form of email signups, form completions and purchases.

Network

Word-of-mouth advertising is the oldest and often the most effective form of advertising. When a brand is recommended by a friend, reputable media source or an influencer you personally connect with, it carries more weight than a brand endorsing itself. Influencers, even when clearly paid to endorse a brand, do effectively persuade — particularly with millennials.

For your social and content marketing initiatives, do not be shy about leveraging any positive brand endorsements. Amplify positive brand mentions with paid advertising dollars to build credibility and social proofing. Also use “calls to authority” in your ad copy and creative, such as “featured in, as seen in…”

With these tips in mind, how will you actively work to make your ads less adversarial?

As always, if you need help with any element of your online marketing, let me know.

What Makes a Website Great?

Build a Website with Sync Digital Solutions

There's a lot of noise about what makes a website great. In the 1990's a great website had flashy movement. In the early 2000's it was all about big and loud graphics. Now, in 2017 there is a different take on the subject. You see, just a few years ago websites were viewed as billboards and ads by many; some still think this way. You shouldn't.

If you have a brick and mortar location I want you to take a step outside and view your storefront. That's your home page. Now, enter. Take in the decor, talk to your staff about their positions within the company, and play around with your products and services.

If you don't have a brick and mortar location, take a look at your logo and branding package, then proceed with the other steps.

That is your website!

Now of course, there are technical aspects to building a great website, but that's where you should start. Then, once you get to the technical side, here's some quick points to note:

  • Make it responsive: there are endless advantages to making sure your site fits on all kinds of devices.
  • On-Site SEO: make sure big search can find you.
  • Image to Text Ratio: ensure that you have a good balance; go 40:60.
  • Clean and Modern: Don't get caught in the trap of trying to be too fancy. Keep it clean and your customers will appreciate the ease of use.
  • CTAs: Ensure there are regular calls to action throughout the site.

Once you take care of those steps, you're ready to step into a more advanced setup. But first, before all of the technical aspects surrounding website creation, make sure you treat your website like another storefront or office.

If you need help with building your next great website, let me know. I love working with new clients that offer great products and services.

Social Media in the Face of Terror

Manchester

When the worst happens, how do you react on social media? Yesterday, as the news rolled in about the terrorist attack on Manchester, brands were left scrambling to make sure they weren't posting anything insensitive. But what should you do, as a brand, when terror strikes? Here's our guide:

Personalize

Do not post as your brand. Rather, post as the people behind the brand. It's humans that were hurt or killed in an attack, and it's humans that will react to terror. A genuine expression of compassion from person-to-person is far more applicable in these types of moments.

Stop Posting

In the face of tragedy, it's always best to stop posting. Generally, the rule of thumb is to stop posting for 24 hours if the incident is international, while posting can be inappropriate for as long as a week if the attack is closer to home. The lines have blurred over the years, and as terrorist attacks become more common place many brands just forego the "Stop Posting" rule. However, if you are sensitive to these types of incidents, or if you'd like to align your brand with compassion (and we recommend you do, because behind brands are humans, and we all care about these types of incidents) we recommend to be mindful of such rules.

Posting About the Incident

There is a fine line between compassion and exploitation. It is fine to post a message of condolences and solidarity, but there are a few points that need to be considered when doing so. First, do not tie that post to profitability of any kind (IE: Don't offer a discount on UK flags along with a post about the Manchester attack). Second, if you can personalize the post, then do so. When 9/11 happened, I posted a personal message to my brand MySpace with a picture of my staff and I holding up signs to show our support. A basic graphic is fine, but try to personalize it. Again, these types of incidents deserve the human touch. Third, with international incidents there can be a language barrier. For example, gift in English means poison in German. Make sure you're checking that content before it goes out.

Ads & Sponsored Posts

Stop all ads for 24 hours, period.

Don't Revisit

After some time has gone by, don't revisit the incident as a brand. Do so from your personal profiles. Revisiting an attack can come off as exploitation. There are only select exceptions to this rule, and they come in the form of businesses that were directly impacted by the incident.

Understanding our Packages: Online Marketing You Can Bank On

Sync Digital Solutions Services

If you've ever considered working with a marketing agency in the past, you've probably re-visited the subject several times. Quite often there are 4 uncertainties that go through business owner's minds when making the all important decision to work with an online team that's not in-house:

  1. How will content work?
  2. How will I gauge results?
  3. Will communication be solid?
  4. How will live branding and online branding work hand-in-hand?

As a business owner myself, I understand the need for accountability and defined agreements. In fact, it has been a part of our growth over the last 2 years to establish programs for all types of business owners.

Couple what you're about to dive into with an award winning graphics and video department, and the best R&D team in the industry, and you'll quickly see why your business should be Synced.

Here's what we offer:

  • Online Marketing Training: For the businesses that want to do it all ... properly.
  • Growth.Hack: If you want to grow your online audience, introducing new potential customers to your brand, but still control content.
  • Executive Level: We do it all, and report back to you.

Now, let's define these programs.

Online Marketing Training

We have put together the most comprehensive OLM training on the planet (seriously). In the training you will learn how to build a website from scratch, manage your base SEO, revolutionize your social media, and you'll acquire the skills to use all the tools needed to bring it all together (IE: Photoshop, cameras, etc.).

You'll go through training videos, and have access to our team via Slack for consultation during the course.

The Goal: Learn and implement in 2 hours/week. While we didn't build the course with the goal of spending only 2 hours/week on your OLM, that has been what previous students have reported back to us; once they get through the course, they can implement all of their online strategies in just 2 hours/week! That's less time than most spend looking at selfies, food porn, and dogs smiling for the camera.

Growth.Hack

Our most popular service offering! You control the content while we bring you new customers. We do this by administering your network growth on social media, implementing changes to your SEO monthly, and taking care of your advertising online. We also offer valuable advice in drafting your marketing plan and video training regarding our tried, tested, and true posting procedures.

In short, you publish the content in-house, we bring new customers in the doors.

The Goal: 8% (in many cases much higher) growth on your networks month-after-month. Quality leads, and connections that take action to be a part of your network. So, no spam.

Executive Level

Content, posting, ads administration, network growth, SEO, website design, social media administration, interaction management, and consultation come together with our Executive Level package that is working 24/7 for you. Quite literally, you rarely have to think about your online marketing with this service. We will work with you quarterly to establish programs and goals, then get to work so you can worry about the business that you love.

The Goal: Definable ROI, and our teams working together to ensure maximum revenue growth while alleviating advertising expenses where we can.

The Communication

Sync has strong communication procedures with our many fantastic clients:

  • Communication via a closed, secure chat.
  • Same day support.*
  • Monthly reporting via Trello, keeping all reports in one place for comparison.
  • Availability for Google Hangout meetings.
  • Quarterly planning sessions.
  • Our Departments: Content, Research & Development, Multimedia, SEO, Design. Get access to them all with certain service offerings.

This is the part where you get excited! We, quite literally have an option for everyone. Work with a team of business owners, TV producers, SMM influencers, published authors, and just all around smarty-pants kinda people (your kind of people).

Give us a shout, and if we both feel good about a potential client relationship, we'll get to work immediately, growing your business. Oh, and by us, I mean we. Every client relationship starts with a conversation between you and the actual owner of Sync. That's just how much we care about making sure you are well taken care of.

The Importance of Transparency in Business

Sync Digital Solutions Transparency

The past few weeks have been extremely frustrating for me. As we opened up the flood gates to new clients recently, we've communicated with a lot of new business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs. All of them were skeptical about SEO and social media ... in 2017! It's not because they don't believe it can work. No, the problem is actually far more sinister.

In reality, they've been lied to, ripped off, and are just tired of the companies they've worked with. In one case, I met with the owner of a health spa. She has been working with an SEO company that constantly gave her the run around, didn't produce reporting she could easily follow, and whenever she asked questions, she was made to feel nosy or pushy.

Agency employees and owners; if you have to utter the words, "just trust us" then you're not explaining your services properly. That's just fact. No one is suggesting you should give away proprietary info, or trade secrets, but you should be able to answer one very simple question, "Why?"

When a client asks why, in the vast majority of cases, they are not trying to be nosy or pushy. Stop being so defensive. They're asking the question because they legitimately don't understand what they're paying for.

Let's run through an SEO "why" exercise.

Question 1

  • Client: Why do we need to identify keywords?
  • Agency: Well because we need to tackle the phrases people are typing into Google to find businesses like yours. If we optimize for those keywords or phrases then you have a better chance of being seen.

Question 2

  • Client: Why is the SEO standard supposed to be 1200 words on a page, but we have pages with 300 words?
  • Agency: Not every page has to be optimized for long-form content. SEO isn't a one trick pony. Many different strategies working in tandem will get you where you want to go. So, we reserve long-form content for pages where it's appropriate, and then for pages with shorter content, we just have to be smarter regarding how that content is produced and handled. It's a balance between informing and boring your customer vs what's good for SEO.

See how easy that was? Don't just tell them what you're going to do, but rather explain why, how, and give them goals to watch for. Now, some of you might be asking why I would write this blog. WHY not let these companies bury themselves in their own bullshit? Well, because they're not burying their company, they're burying an industry.

If your client would rather talk to a telemarketer than you, that's a problem, and that's something I was told by a new client about their previous agency just a couple of weeks ago.

Be transparent, be awesome, and do what you say you're going to do. You'll be looking at yachts in no time.

SEO: A Critically Important Checklist

Search Engine Optimization by Sync Digital Solutions

An Easy-To-Follow SEO Checklist: For New & Existing Sites

Even in 2017, I'm still meeting with people who do not understand what SEO is and how it should be implemented. It's the unicorn of online marketing, and I just wanted to continue to clear up what exactly it is. Further, I'll talk about the checklist that is required to make it on big search.

Ask Google or Bing what is required to get traffic and rank on their search engines, they'll mention links, quality content, and credibility. A bit vague, right?

So, let's talk specifics.

Keyword Research & Competitive Analysis

Keywords aren’t all created equal. Depending on your market you could be targeting phrases that have 30 searches per month but are worth $30 per click (if you were to pay for traffic through Adwords). Be mindful of the competition as well as the commercial value. Use tools like Google Keyword PlannerioWordStream, or SERPs Keyword Tool to come up with a large list of phrases to begin your process.

  1. Focus on valuable keywords that have a “buyers” mindset.
  2. Choose keywords that have lower difficulty to start.
  3. Start with 1 keyword per page.
  4. The next step will help in your keyword decision-making process.

Ethically Steal Data To Understand What Needs To Be Done To Compete:

You have a fantastic opportunity to ethically steal your competitor’s organic search strategies. It’s simply a matter of using spy tools like SpyFuCognitive SEO, or SEMRushAhrefs, to see the top performing pages of your competitors.

  1. You can use this data to start reverse engineering what makes those pages rank well. What keywords are they using? How are they linking between their own pages? What links are pointing to their pages? How many links are they building? How quickly are they building them? All of this info will give you a roadmap of what needs to be done to compete with confidence.
     
  2. Setup Your Site For Growth – By using a “silo architecture” you’ll be able to add content to your site slowly over time while maintaining fantastic SEO value. By doing this all of your content rests in a relevant, easy to understand format. Both your visitors and Google’s search engine spiders will appreciate this. This architecture can be accomplished with any CMS or custom platform.

Initial Setup Steps – You’ve got to get these done with any site, new or old.

  1. Setup Google Analytics – you may need to create a new Gmail address to associate with a new GA account. If you already have a GA account add your new site.
     
  2. Add Your Site to Google Search Console – This is going to be essential in the long run and it will take time for Google to collect data. The sooner you do this the sooner you’ll have usable data.
     
  3. Add Your Site to Bing Webmaster Tools – It never hurts to have more data. Bing’s webmaster tools can offer some interesting insight at times. This may also be beneficial if you’re specifically targeting the U.S.
     
  4. Are You Using WordPress? If so, install Yoast SEO and Google Analytics by Yoast. These 2 plugins are going to allow you to finely tune your on-page SEO making everything else you do to promote more effective.
     
  5. Use Keywords Near The Beginning of Your Page Titles – The closer the keyword is to the start of the title the more weight it carries in Google’s eyes. Keep titles 70-71 characters long. If the title is longer Google may cut off the end with ellipses. Use this title to entice people to click on your listing. It’s essentially an organic advertisement! Check your click through rates in Google Search Console and improve your titles over time.
  6. Add Unique Meta Descriptions To Every Page You Create – This can be challenging for enterprise sites with 100K pages. However most sites should be able to handle this. By using your keyword near the beginning and a bit of copywriting you’ll end up with a search listing people want to click on. That’s incredibly valuable. This is the second part of your organic ad. 160 characters has been the standard length without an ellipsis cutoff. However, Google is currently testing longer descriptions.
     
  7. Aim to Produce Content of 1-2k Words Per Page – Do this for any page you want ranked in Google. A study done by com found that pages with word counts in the 1300 range ranked well vs less.
     
  8. Use H1 Tags For Page Titles – This signifies to Google that the words in this tag are important. Make sure you optimize this with your most significant keywords for that page.
     
  9. Use H2 and H3 Tags Within The Body Content – This not only helps to break up the content in a pleasing way to the eye it’s also a chance to optimize for secondary keywords. Again, these tags signify important words on the page to Google.
     
  10. Add Images & Alt Tags To Every Page – Make sure your alt tag uses a keyword you want that page optimized for.
     
  11. Add Internal Links – You should link 1-3 times to other pages on your site where it makes sense. If you only have 100 words on the page 3 internal links would be overkill. Doing this will increase the “crawl-ability” of your site for the search engine spiders (meaning you’ll have more pages indexed faster).
     
  12. Add External Authority Links – Adding a link out from your page to an authority on the topic of that page’s content sounds counterintuitive. There’s no need to put them front and center to drive traffic away from your site. Have these links open in a new window. This is a quality signal to Google that works incredibly well. It should be done on every page.
     
  13. Check Your Site Speed – There are several free site speed checking tools out there. Tools like Google’s own Test My Site will analyze both your mobile, and desktop site load times. You’ll also find a very handy technical analysis of what to fix to increase your speed. You should aim for less than a 2 second load time.
     
  14. Create an XML Sitemap – This can be done with a plugin like Yoast or others on WordPress. There are also free online resources for sites not based on WordPress. When this is complete be sure to link to it in the footer of your site and submit it to Google in Search Console.
     
  15. Create a Robots.txt File – This is a great opportunity to either allow or disallow search engine spiders from seeing specific sections of your site. Don’t want Google to index a PDF you give away for an email opt-in? You can do that here. Don’t want Google to index pages that may cause duplicate content issues for you? Yep, that’s an option here too.

Fixing Technical Errors (if it’s necessary)

  1. Clean Up Your Meta Data – This is where Google Search Console will have come in handy. They will pull in data from your site and show you exactly which pages don’t have meta titles or descriptions. If they are too long or short you’ll know. It’s incredibly helpful as it shows you the exact URL where the meta needs adjusting. When you have any errors in this area you must go through and fix them all. It’s your job to bring each column with a number of errors down to absolute 0.
     
  2. Fix 404 / 500 Errors – You’ll be able to find this info in Search Console as well. It’s just another bit of housekeeping that will help you stay ahead of the competition in the long run.
     
  3. Find Broken Links – There’s a fantastic tool called ScreamingFrog it will crawl all of the pages on your site seeking out broken links, errors and more. It’s essential for uncovering aspects of your site you may have never realized were there.

Start Promoting

  1. Use Your Competitors As a Link Building Roadmap – Remember when we talked about ethically stealing keywords? Well you can absolutely ethically find out where all of your competitors are getting their links from. Use tools like comCognitiveSEO, and Majestic.
     
  2. Use Selective Outreach – By creating compelling content you’ll have much better success “shoulder tapping” other site owners into linking back to you.
     
  3. Build Links – Guest posting is one of the most powerful forms of link building you can do to increase your website rankings today. We do the outreach for you and get your brand’s content posted on high-quality sites.Another great way to build links is to create highly compelling content. Huge lists, Infographics, Unique videos, well thought-out curated content can all be content that others will link to. Sometimes your content will build links for you!
     
  4. Claim Your Brand – There are so many different services out there that allow you to claim your brand name for your account. Make sure you do this before someone else does. The big sites are obviously the social media platforms. Make sure you’ve claimed these as soon as possible.
     
  5. Facebook
     
  6. Twitter
     
  7. Instagram
     
  8. LinkedIn
     
  9. Youtube
     
  10. Yelp
     
  11. Pinterest
     
  12. Create a Content Posting Schedule – Whether you’re adding content to a blog or just articles to your silo’d website you absolutely must add new content. It doesn’t have to be every day. But in today’s hyper-competitive environment it doesn’t make sense to post once a month anymore. Besides you now have all of these new outlets to post your content on social media.
     
  13. Engage With Your Followers – Whether that’s commenting on blog posts relevant to your site or your own posts for that matter – comment. Engage with the people in your market wherever they are.

In Closing

So there you have it. Our Online Marketing Training covers many of these points in detail, but if you're looking for someone to take care of this for you, then let's talk about that.

Remember, SEO is a gradual and ongoing process. Results will not come overnight. That's a condition of getting into SEO that you must understand. Depending on your industry and how active your competition is in the realm of SEO you might see active effects in a couple of months, or much longer. It's key that whomever you get to manage your SEO (or if you're doing it yourself) gives you realistic goals.