Thursday, August 20, 2015

BBB and Google Partner to Get Businesses on the Map

Businesses encouraged to attend in-person BBB workshops for expert help

Being on the map matters. 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information, like store addresses, business hours, product availability and directions.1 Yet, only 37 percent of businesses have claimed their listing on a search engine.2  And complete business information can help generate economic value to individual communities. In small communities, this could be worth up to +$300k a year; in large cities it can be up to +$7m.3


stasiasbakery.pngThat’s why Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont and Google have teamed up on Google’s latest program called Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map. Our mission: to help businesses in 30,000 cities get the help they need to succeed online, for free. Because stronger businesses mean stronger communities.

Ready to get started?
Businesses are invited to attend free workshops to get online and on the map. Attendees can look forward to giveaways, dedicated staff to help update business information on the spot, and free food and drinks.

Find a workshop in your area and get your business on the map.

Want to see how your business appears on Google Search and Maps now? Head to www.gybo.com/business and type in your business name to see how your information appears across Google Search and Maps.

The tool highlights suggestions for areas that could use attention, including:
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Hours of operation
  • Photos

Want help updating the information? Attend a BBB workshop to learn how to manage your business info across Google.

We’re excited to be partnering with BBB. By working together, we can help our local businesses succeed on the web and make our communities even stronger.
dandelion.png


Written by Whitney Lemon, Google Small Business Engagement. Whitney is a marketing manager on Google’s Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map team. She hosts Friday 15: Small Business Tips, Google’s series to help small businesses succeed online. Friday 15 is part of Google’s Get Your Business Online program, providing small businesses with a custom domain name and web hosting–at no charge for one year.


For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become an Accredited Business and get the resources you need to give you confidence and help keep your business safe and secure. 

1 Google/Ipsos MediaCT/Purchased, Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior, May 2014
2 Marketing Sherpa, Search Marketing Benchmark Report SEO Edition, 2012
3 Google/Oxera, The Benefits of Complete Business Listings, December 2014

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are Weak Passwords Putting your Business at Risk?

Let’s face it, everybody hates passwords. They are a pain and a nuisance, but in today’s connected world, they are clearly necessary. Passwords are multiplying and are not going away any time soon. Most companies have no real password requirement. Everyone has a password but the clarity on what needs to be done and what is appropriate and/or what’s not appropriate is not distributed to the company.

You need to take this seriously, securing your information is important.

Log-in box on computer screen of admin“But Marge does not have anything really sensitive on her computer so we just leave her alone.” – Anonymous Owner

There is often a feeling that certain people need less security, because their work does not deal with sensitive information. Please understand leaving one person’s password unsecured is like leaving a door unlocked to your palace. You cannot make this assumption without paying high penalties.


All passwords need to be secure and updated. Often breaches start by entering a smaller target to gain access to the real target. We see hacks that use smaller companies who service larger organizations targeted because they tend to be very lacking in basic security.

So what is a secure or strong password?

It may sound cliché, but your password has to be strong or there is no point in it. There are plenty of articles and viewpoints out there about how complex passwords must be, but you should always have a minimum of at least eight characters. It should not be a dictionary word (in English or any other language). It should include both uppercase and lowercase letters and a special character or two. A passphrase is a great approach as well, as long as it is not common. Passwords like 123123, letmein, birthdays, sports, names, even password1 are no good. It is like having a key with no ridges.

NOTE: Stop writing your latest password on sticky notes and “hiding” them under your desk. That is a security 101 no-no. Store it somewhere safe, out of everyone’s hands.

The top passwords for this year:

1. 123456
2. password
3. 12345
4. 12345678
5. qwerty
6. 123456789
7. 1234
8. baseball
9. dragon
10. football
11. 1234567
12. monkey
13. letmein
14. abc123
15. 111111
16.mustang
17. access
18. shadow
19. master
20. michael
21. superman
22. 696969
23. 123123
24. batman
25. trustno1

Apparently lots of people enjoy playing baseball with a dragon and driving a superman mustang. Personally, we prefer the bat mobile.

Put your password to the test at this “How Secure Is My Password” website.



Your password policy: 

Create – Implement – Enforce
Your WRITTEN policy needs to define secure and unsecured passwords, sharing rules, frequency of changing and reiterate the importance of them. All those that complain may not be fully educated on the impact that a breach would have on everyone, not just the company. Please explain to your staff clearly why it is a requirement of being employed. Lastly, your employees need to acknowledge they understand it and are responsible to abide by it. They need to also be accountable.



The skeleton of your policy should include:
  1. Minimum password length
  2. Password composition:
    • Character requirements and allowances as well as capitals, lowercase, numbers, special characters or items such as your name and the company name are not allowed.
  3. Password age limitation:
    • The frequency of change required.
  4. Password storage:
    • Passwords are not to be written down, they must be memorized or kept in a password manager.
  5. Reuse of passwords:
    • Do not use the same password at work that you use in any other account.
  6. Sharing and transferring:
    • Passwords are not allowed to be shared without proper authorization.
    • If it is shared, establish what criteria is needed to share.
  7. Electronic transmission:
    • No transmission over insecure networks or communication.
  8. Requirements for System Administrators:
    • Both their permission level and power to control others as well as a clear understanding of how are they held accountable
  9. Enforcement:
    • Roles, responsibilities, consequences and sanctions
  10. Exemptions:
    • Policy and forms for any exceptions

Now let’s be reasonable, you are not Fort Knox, but perspective still matters. If you have anything of value on those systems that you wouldn’t want distributed to everyone: your employees, competitors, vendors, partners, investors, ex-spouse, etc. then you need to protect it. Like your key to the lock on the front building that’s there for a reason.

But really, who is out to get me? I am just a small business owner.

Maybe you are the kindest person with no secrets willing to give away all your information. Even so, you may not realize largest offenders are most often internal or external IT people [who have the largest amount of access to your network]. They have access to your servers, workstations, applications and firewall. Make sure you have a process to verify their compliance as well. Also, be certain that many times these mistakes are simply that, mistakes. If one person unknowingly provides their password to an outsider who has any malicious intent, your biggest asset, and your information could be swiped from you in minutes. In this case you can be yourself, be trusting on other levels, but don’t be naive with your information.

Avoid Reaction, Take Action.
  1. Create a written password policy. It should be part of your computer usage policy. Make sure all employees are familiar with it and agree to abide by it.
  2. Help them understand why it is important. Listen to the groans, appreciate their issues and then insist they do it.
  3. Help them understand what appropriate and inappropriate passwords are.
    • While you are at it, help them understand that their families and personal information needs to be safeguarded as well. They need to keep their interested protected as well. Make it a service announcement for them. Identity theft is booming. Keeping yourself safe is very important.
  4. Make sure your IT support puts the policy in place that requires policy to be followed. Often they will not like this because they will have to spend more time “resetting passwords”. A small price to pay for security.
  5. Make sure your IT people are following the same procedure. We have seen often they circumvent it, because they have the authority.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become an Accredited Business and get the resources you need to give you confidence and help keep your business safe and secure. 


Written by Dan Adams, CEO of BBB Accredited Business, New England Network Solutions (NENS).  

Dan is a serial entrepreneur who ran his first retail operation in high school. He founded NENS in 1993 and over the years, owned and managed several start-up companies. Dan is passionate about sharing his success strategies with fellow entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Effective Keyword Strategy and Use for Great SEO Results


As any solid SEO strategist knows, an effective content marketing strategy involves a lot of keyword research.  In fact, content marketing really commences with keyword research as it serves as the foundation and backbone for all your campaigns.  Of course your brand and your products would serve as the nucleus beneath this research. So what’s the next step in doing your research and how does one go about choosing what to do with these keywords? How should we disperse these keywords we discover across our site, social media, blog and other channels? These are common questions I receive when I am working with a lot of my clients or anyone that is trying to increase their presence online with content marketing. 

As discussed earlier in this post, every business should start with their own core brand and from there do some research on their target audience.  This is where a lot of marketing teams will develop personas which are essentially caricatures of their targets which provide some insight into their demographic and pyschographic behavior.  Once you have these basics down which will help you with your target’s buyer behavior, you can then start to develop your content marketing campaign.  This is where the keyword research process starts.  


  1. Target Audience Keywords - As you develop each campaign for your particular target audience you want to of course utilize the keywords that you discover from your research.  Using Google’s Keyword Tool is a great way to get this insight and it provides wonderful search traffic estimates.  Remember, for the most part you want to search for less competitive keywords and ones that have lower search results (low competition and search results of sub 3,000 searches/month aka Longtail).  You will also want to develop another list of keywords that are considered medium competitive and that have slightly higher search results than the first set.  Finally, and you guessed it, you will want to develop a 3rd set of keywords that you find from your research that are considered highly competitive and that have much higher search results (3,000+/month).  A good start is to have 10-20 keywords for each (low, medium, high competition).  You can do this for each product you have, as well as, each page on your website.
  2. Incorporating Keywords in Content - The next step now that you have these lists of keyword results is implementation.  Depending on how targeted you want your campaign to be you can select keywords from one of your lists.  For example, if your service or product is in a narrow and less competitive market and you are looking to increase your mindshare as well as presence in this market, then its wise to use higher search volume keywords.  You will want to do the opposite for a more competitive or mature market if that’s the arena where you are marketing (find long tail keywords).   Still though, you may choose to incorporate medium to high search volume keywords for your website if your service or product has wider appeal, but then you might want to utilize your list of less competitive keywords in your blog posts or on your social media channels to try to create interest or grab your audience’s attention and get them in the back door.  Please note that it is wise to stick with one keyword phrase per post as this will help you keep your post focused, but it will also have a greater chance of being found in search engine results.  (As a simple keyword optimization strategy reminder to those who may be just launching their business site, you will definitely want to make sure that you focus your website pages on one keyword per page and using a keyword density of 3-5%.)  Using this keyword optimization strategy for your content will help you over time to build a presence in your market and yes, it will improve your search results.
  3. Placing Your Keywords in the Right Channels - As the last paragraph noted, deciding where to place your optimized content with your newly selected keywords is the last step.  This is the promotion or action step and the best strategy here is diversification.  Depending upon your market and target audience, select what you deem will be your top channels to promote your content, then start your content engine, and let the content flow.  To increase the chances that your posts will be viewed, you will want to use your long tail keywords (less competitive, less search results) which will have a higher conversion rate.  Its wise to push this long tail keyword optimized content thru your social media channels and blog posts as they will serve as strong hooks to bait your target audience.  Make sure you have links which bring your audience catches back to your site which will help your marketing goals.
  4. Using Location or Local SEO - If your service is located in a small town or city, then I highly recommend that you add some very easy local SEO tactics along with your new keywords. These days getting on to Google’s #1 search page is very competitive, especially since larger companies simply have larger content marketing budgets and manpower.  Hence, the best way for smaller companies to navigate their way up the search rankings is to optimize their site with their location.  Place your city or town in your title tags and description and make sure that your address is listed on each of your pages. Also, make sure that you have a Google+ Local Business page that has been Verified by Google.  These small tactics really do make a difference in today’s competitive online world.
Try these content marketing strategies out and measure your results over time.  You should start to see some better search results with a consistent content producing engine.  Hence, you could easily add a step #5 for this which would be to measure your results and rinse, wash and repeat.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become an Accredited Business and get the resources you need to give you confidence and help keep your business safe and secure. 


Christian Habermann
Written by Christian Habermann of BBB Accredited Business, Auctus Marketing

Christian Habermann is the founder of Auctus Marketing and is a leader and innovator in the online marketing world. He is very involved in the local start up scene in Boston, MA. He co-founded ConsumerUnited.com, now Goji.com, which is one of the fastest growing online insurance companies and has made the Inc. 500 List the past 3 years.  He loves to help companies of all sizes, from start ups to Fortune 500s, embrace the online marketing world to grow their business. He is the author of "SEO for 2014” and holds and MBA in marketing from Vanderbilt.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Web Hosting, Networking and Growing -- What a July!

In the month of July, the blog focused significantly on resources, tips and tricks for new businesses. As we wrap up the month -- partly in denial, it can’t possibly be August next week -- we’re taking a look back at the topics we covered.

Preparing your Small Business for Growth
Last week, we shared four tips for staying grounded while your business takes-off. Growth is a positive piece of your business’s puzzle and in order to convert it into success, you have to be ready.

Understanding Affordable Web Hosting
Christian Habermann joined us as a Guest Blogger in mid-July to offer guidance for finding affordable web hosting. He discussed factors to consider during a web host search while keeping in mind your business’s needs.

Timeless Success for Small Business
Mid-month we spoke with an owner whose BBB Accredited -- family owned and operated -- business is celebrating their 200th anniversary in 2015. Michael Monahan feels that customers should be top-of-mind at all times and credits their long-time success to caring for their community. Congrats again to Monahan & Co. on your longstanding success!

Master Time Management and Give your Business a Boost
Guest blogger, Adam Koncius of Koncius Digital Marketing brought us suggestions for the business owner doing juggling acts to establish and sustain their business. Adam pointed to time management as the key to streamlining tasks both big and small.

Networking for your New Business
Adam also kicked-off July for the blog with his guest post about the importance of building a strong network. He addressed educating people about your business to create opportunity for securing clientele as well as staying in the forefront of the marketplace.

Is your business less than 1-year old? Join a community of trustworthy businesses and build a positive reputation while you grow your enterprise as a member of the New Business Sponsor Program. Is your business more established? Get Accredited with BBB as part of your formula for success.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Preparing your Small Business for Growth

Your business is busy trying to deliver a solution while standing out in a crowded marketplace and keeping up with developments in your industry -- it can be exhausting. Things like your brand can sometimes get lost in the happy-to-have but crazy commotion that is growth. 

Here are a few tips for staying on track while your business is making moves: 

Set distinct goals. To improve and maintain traction in the marketplace you must set goals. An easy starting point: write down your business objective and then break down how this objective will be met. Make your business goals clear and definitive and most importantly, relevant. Establish who is responsible for meeting each aspect of the objective as well as a timeline, so that everyone is held accountable as your business evolves. As time and circumstances allow, employ analytical tools to evaluate what’s working and what needs tweaking. 


Understand your market. In order for a business to grow, doing your due diligence with market research is a must. It helps you understand your industry, competition and target customers. To start, conduct an internet search using trustworthy and credible sources. For more tailored results, connect with your customers through surveys, q&a's and focus groups. Once you have a stronger understanding of the customers who make up your demographic, reach out to them regularly via a blog or email newsletter. Interact with them on social media and most importantly, listen. Encourage your customers to give you feedback and embrace it as a way to celebrate and/or improve your business endeavors. 

Be the brand. Ensure your employees are educated -- and receive continued education -- on the business’s key points and purpose. You and your team are the best branding tools imaginable. Take advantage of this and empower your colleagues to bring the brand to life. They can communicate about your brand confidently and accurately while your business evolves. Developing an elevator pitch is a great way to give an employee a springboard for how they present themselves and represent your business in the community. 

Anticipate change. Change will happen. Be thoughtful of your core principles while you do your best to roll with the punches. You’ve made an investment and it’s important not to allow it to be lost in a changing marketplace. Staying true to your point of view will allow you to further strengthen relationships with your existing community while at the same time earning the trust of prospective clients. 

Are you a rising new business less than a year old? Apply to become a New Business Sponsor. The program will arm you with the tools you need to keep up with your business’s growth. Is your business more established? Get Accredited with BBB as part of your formula for success.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Understanding Affordable Web Hosting for your Business

Making a decision regarding the right web host is important for your business. There are various factors you need to keep in mind when selecting a host and one of them is cost. It is possible to access affordable hosting while still enjoying quality services along with the features that suit your business's needs. Hosting forms the basis of your website and you should be able to comfortably afford it. 

Worthwhile Investment Good hosting is a worthwhile investment that does not have to cost you a fortune. During the process of creating your website, hosting should be included in your budget. Hosting companies that provide low cost services are ideal for business owners who want to save money without compromising on the type of features that are available.   

Cost is always essential when selecting a hosting plan for your business site. Find a hosting plan that
will meet your needs and be affordable enough for you to utilize the resources that you possess. Every business owner, especially if you are starting out, wants to be able to use an affordable provider. The provider should not only be affordable, but reliable as well. Along with helping you save money, the hosting company should be able to provide you with the support you need. Getting value for money involves finding the best and most reasonably priced provider who can help you develop a well performing website. 

Different Affordable Features When choosing web hosting, it is important to carry out comparisons regarding different features that are offered along with the costs involved. The provider needs to be able to offer you the features you need at a cost that fits within your budget. Determine how much you are willing to spend on web hosting and identify a provider that offers reasonable prices. It is essential for you to be aware of how much you are expected to pay in order for you to allocate the funds. A well priced hosting package will enable you to develop a suitable website for your business without straining your resources.   

Competitive Pricing The competitive nature of the industry has led to a continuous reduction in prices to give clients more options to choose from. You can easily find a hosting provider that will be able to provide you with more features at a lower cost. Carefully consider the features you need to run your site. The growth of your business is highly dependent on your online presence. Your web host is required to give you the space you need online with adequate space and bandwidth. There should always be room for growth because as your business develops, you will require more space. High speed connections are one of the most appealing factors because they influence how fast your website will take to load. Hosting provides affordable security for your website and this is facilitated by secure servers. Security makes it possible to safely and easily transfer data. An affordable hosting company will prioritize cost efficiency and reliability. You will be given the services you need at a price you can afford. 

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become an Accredited Business and get information and services to give you the confidence that can help keep your business safe and secure. 



Christian Habermann
Written by Christian Habermann of BBB Accredited Business, Auctus Marketing

Christian Habermann is the founder of Auctus Marketing and is a leader and innovator in the online marketing world. He is very involved in the local start up scene in Boston, MA. He co-founded ConsumerUnited.com, now Goji.com, which is one of the fastest growing online insurance companies and has made the Inc. 500 List the past 3 years.  He loves to help companies of all sizes, from start ups to Fortune 500s, embrace the online marketing world to grow their business. He is the author of "SEO for 2014” and holds and MBA in marketing from Vanderbilt.