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Igniting Business Blog

Check out our comprehensive blog where we cover the important Web Design, IT, and Marketing topics which impact small businesses like yours.  

3 Unique Security Concerns for Your E-Commerce Pages

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Small businesses have a lot of risks. If your small business has an e-commerce website, it’s imperative your or your web firm performs adequate security on the website.  Here are three considerations to keep in mind when building up or maintaining your e-commerce site:

1. Make sure your software is always up-to-date. 

Bots and malware are always roving the Internet to find new cracks in any software that involves credit card information or personally identifiable information. If you use a third-party platform, they usually have frequent updates and patches available.  Some portals will update your website automatically, but others may not. Develop a schedule for checking your site's software to make sure security doesn't fall behind.

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The Pros and Cons of Small Businesses Using Virtual Machines

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Last month, we discussed when a small business may want to use a virtual machine.  Now, with nearly everything we do becoming virtual these days, it's not surprising that PCs are jumping on that bandwagon. Virtual PCs aren't a totally new thing; ever see videos of people installing old Windows operating systems onto their computers? Thanks to software like VMWare, operating systems of all kinds can be used once more. This not only benefits those anxious to return to the past and play with older programs and applications, it also benefits small businesses. Here are some pros and cons to using virtual machines for small business purposes.

Pros:You have multiple systems on one computer: If your small business for example, still likes to use Windows XP or Windows 7 and you can't get Windows 10 to work to your liking, a virtual machine will run older systems right on your current desktop.If you have an application in your small business that only runs on an older version of Windows, you may want to consider using a virtual machine as a solution.It reduces IT costs: Virtual Machines can decrease small business capital expenses by removing the need for hardware servers to meet the goal of computing performance and overall availability.You're able to access your virtual machine from anywhere: With an internet connection and help from apps (such as VMWare's ThinApp), you're may be able to access your virtual machine from your PC, phone, or tablet. You're no longer tied to your office to get things done for work.Cons: There are hefty upfront costs: What your small business saves IT costs will have to go towards the upfront costs of virtualization.Lack of support: Running older operating systems through a virtual machine means working with systems that may be no longer supported by their companies. This means if something were to go wrong, you may be left to your own devices as to how to fix the problem.

Contact us at Igniting Business if you want help assessing if a virtual machine might be beneficial for your small business.

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Welcoming Tyga to the Igniting Business Team

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We are excited to announce Tyga McHenry has joined the Igniting Business team as a Web Specialist. Having graduated from the University of Missouri and University of Illinois, Tyga comes to us with experience working in web, marketing, advertising, and IT industries. Tyga uses her experience with the goal to help small businesses better assist their respective communities. She’s been involved in every step of the website design process from planning and mockups to wireframing and development. Serving on our web team, Tyga will play a role in the initial design of website and building out webpages. She’s excited to work alongside our clients to bring their design dreams to fruition on their final website.

Please join us in welcoming Tyga to our team! Check out the Our Team page for more information on Tyga and our entire team.

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Marketing Tips for Small Businesses: More of Your Best Customers

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One way to generate more revenue in your small business is to acquire more of your best customers.  Rather than continuing broad marketing activities that are not providing quality results, analyze who your best customers and tailor your future marketing efforts accordingly. 

The 80/20 rule

Apply the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule in order to determine your most profitable customers. The Pareto Principle dictates roughly 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Take note of the characteristics of those customers, because your goal is to acquire more of the same type of customer. Additionally, look for ways to drive additional value to your existing ideal customers.  If you do this effectively it will translate into additional revenue for your company.

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FAQ: When Would a Small Business Want to Use a Virtual Machine?

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In order to understand when a small business might want to use a virtual machine, it helps to define what is a virtual machine.  A virtual machine is a program that runs on your current operating system that provides a virtual environment to guest operating systems.  In other words, it allows one to simulate an operating system on a machine that physically has its own operating system.  For example, your small business may have Windows 10, but you could install Windows 7 in a virtual machine on that same computer to run your programs that are only compliant with Windows 7.

Operating System (OS) Experimentation

If you are interested in a certain operating system but want to try it out before actually investing in it, you can do so by loading it onto a virtual machine and putting it through its paces.  If your current operating system is acceptable but a newer version has been released, you might want to install the new version of your operating system on a virtual machine for testing purposes.  Perhaps you have an older, but still critical, software application which you want to ensure will still run smoothly on the new OS version.  Conversely, if you move to the new version of an OS but still need to run an old version for a mission-critical application or program, you can move your old operating system to a virtual machine and run the mission-critical application from there.

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SEO FAQ: Do Customer Reviews Affect Search Engine Rankings?

SEO FAQ Do Customer Reviews Affect Search Engine Rankings

Quite simply: Yes.  Customer reviews can and do affect your small business’s search engine rankings, especially for businesses that sell their service or product locally.  Many users routinely perform searches on local small businesses. One of the best ways for a search engine like Google to determine which organization should receive a higher ranking status is through evaluating the organization's quality and quantity of relevant customer reviews.  So, whether you own a small restaurant, a local plumbing business, or an auto mechanic's shop, if you want to place high on the list of (local) searches, you do need to pay attention to your customer review collection strategy.

Offer Your Own Customer Review Collection Mechanism

If you want to retain a high level of control and have the best chance to respond to customer reviews, offering an area on your website where customers can provide feedback is one way to go.  It is important to promptly read the reviews and respond in a positive manner.  In cases where you receive a less than desirable review, even responding with an apology and a path to resolution and customer satisfaction will reflect well upon your business.  After reading your positive response, it just might be the deciding factor for another potential customer to give your organization a chance.

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3 Signs You Should Invest in Online Advertising Now

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Online advertising is constantly transforming. It started as text-based ads with hyperlinks, then became static, clickable images. Soon it evolved to videos, recommendations from trusted content creators, and reviews. The full range of what online advertising means is growing every day, and every avenue leads to more exposure and more recognition. If you have a small business and you're wondering if the time is right to start advertising, here are three indicators you likely should invest in online advertising:

You have a site or marketplace for customers to visit. This might seem hasty, but advertising soon and advertising often is the best way to get traffic. Trying to reach a certain traffic threshold or minimum revenue before you start to advertise could leave your small business growing slowly for months (or not at all) when advertising could have made you reach your goals even sooner. If you’re uncertain if your website is ready for the additional visitors, check out our recent blog about how to know if your website is ready for online advertising.You have the tools to track your campaign's success. No matter what you do to your website, whether it's redesigning the landing page, adding a new product, or advertising on a new site, you should have the tools to measure the impact of the change. The information you can gather from tracking new visitors, increased purchases, and duration of visitors on your site is invaluable.  This data can help you fine tune and grow your advertising strategy.There's a market you can't effectively reach without online advertising. Sharing information locally can get you sales. But if you sell a product or service that isn't just a niche for your area, you're missing out on customers across the country and world. Once you know your target demographics and are ready to apply that information on a regional, national or international scale, you're ready to get your campaign started.

It's rarely too early to start advertising, and it's never too late. If you need help with your online marketing strategy, contact us to get started.

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Incorporate These Dynamic Facebook Features to Better Engage Your Social Media Audience

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Social media sites commonly make small tweaks and adjustments to their interfaces in an attempt to find the best ways to keep users engaged and scrolling. While these changes are usually geared towards revamping the user experience, these features can also help small businesses keep their followers engaged. Here are some recent changes Facebook has made to its News Feed that small businesses can use to keep up with their audience.

You can create short GIFs. GIFs are a type of image format that present a series of time delayed, looping images, so they show up as short animations and video clips. GIFs took over the Internet and social media audience and show no sign of stopping.  Peppering your business's Facebook page with GIFs make your content more dynamic, since videos are more active and preferable to text. Consider using a popular clip for a comment, recording a small reaction for comedic effect, or even just showing a small snippet of something attention-grabbing. Incorporating GIFs also makes your page more personal and your business more approachable.You can do more live streaming. YouTube has a live streaming feature for established YouTube accounts. Your small business can use this tool to reach out to audiences more authentically. Now you can do the same thing directly on Facebook with Facebook Live’s live video streaming and receive direct, immediate feedback. Posting your video content on multiple social media platforms will increase your small business’s ability to reach your target market and convert visitors to customers.Links in your followers' feed will be more visible. Potential visitors commonly like to see where they're going when clicking a link. This increases the likelihood your potential visitor will click the link to get the rest of the story or to look at a product. However, the potential visitor’s split-second evaluation of your site should be positive to encourage their decision to click through to your site. Make sure your site looks trustworthy and streamlined for all devices.

Facebook's small changes likely won't drastically alter your content posting strategies, but they do give your small business more options to interact with your followers. Contact us to learn more about Facebook changes, posting on social media, and different marketing strategies for your small business to better engage with your followers and fans.

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FAQ: When is My Small Business Website Ready for Online Advertising?

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Making the choice to advertise online is a big one. You need to decide your budget, look for the right ad platforms, hone in on your targeted audience, and create effective campaigns that will get you the results you want. You also must consider whether or not online advertising is the right strategy for your business, which involves looking at your current sales, your profit margins, and your competitors through a variety of strategic lenses. Just as important, though, is doing the prep work on your own site so your campaigns direct traffic to a place customers want to go. Below are four areas to consider before deciding your small business website is ready for online advertising:

Does your website have credible content?

The best way to find a loyal audience and paying customers is to solve their problems. Not all of their problems require a product or service right now, but that doesn't mean you want to cross those potential customers off the list. Build a library of content that answers common questions and shows your expertise. Over time, a loyal visitor may turn into a loyal customer if they develop trust in your small business and your overarching expertise. In addition, you can build targeted advertising campaigns based off your categories and keywords.

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Consistent IT Updates - Crucial for Your Small Business

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It is becoming increasingly rare to find a business, even a small business, that does not rely quite heavily on some form of technology to play an essential role in their everyday business operations.  Yet, when it comes to the safety and security of their interactions with technology, small businesses are often in a unique situation.  Rarely do small business owners have the technological expertise to ensure the integrity of their own hardware and software.  More commonly, though, small businesses rarely have the resources to devote a substantial portion of their operational costs to employing a full or even part-time IT professional.

Why Hire an IT Service? 

Dealing with IT safety and security issues is the business of a professional IT service.  IT service providers employ expert individuals whose focus is on researching the latest security threats, both internal and external, and discovering the most effective ways in which to combat these threats.  An IT service also knows how to thoroughly analyze a small company's hardware and software, in order to arrive at a comprehensive security package that will ensure the protection of the company's data and IT investment.

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