What Are We Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is about more than turkey and pie – although we’ll never turn down a slice of pie. It’s also about taking a moment to recognize what you have and be thankful for it. Science even shows that gratitude is actually one of the keys to happiness. (more…)

Why SEO is Important for Your Business

In today’s tech-savvy world, search engine optimization isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Marketing tactics that were effective less than a decade ago are now outmoded, and if your audience can’t find you on the Web, the chances are they won’t go looking for you elsewhere.

The Internet is Our World

These days, the Internet is such an integral part of our everyday lives that it’s impossible to separate “the real world” from online activities. Mobile devices provide real-time GPS tracking to give directions to drivers. Millions of people communicate and maintain relationships over social media. And when people need a good or service, they turn to the Internet to find the nearest provider.

The phone book is a thing of the past. And traditional advertising methods simply are not as effective on modern, tech-savvy audiences as they once were. If you want your brand’s message to be seen by potential customers, you need to be available when and where they need you. In other words – when someone needs what you’re selling, they’ll turn to a search engine to find it; if your name isn’t the one they see, you’re losing business.

SEO is Constantly Changing

Search engine optimization is a new process, and it’s constantly changing and reinventing itself to keep up with the shifting needs of technology and a growingly savvy user base. This is why working with SEO experts who keep up with fresh trends is so important. Tactics that would have worked well just a couple of years ago will no longer work. When you’re living and working in the Information Age, outdated info will always hold you back.

Keeping Up With the Times

SEO is effective, and it’s going to continue being effective. The exact details of how it’s implemented may change, but at its heart, SEO is about doing what it takes to maximize visibility on the Internet. Today, that means working within the best practices of Google, the search engine used by over 90% of the world’s population. One day, Google may be supplanted by another search engine, or search engines themselves may become obsolete as new technology changes the way we interact with the Internet – but the core principles of SEO will continue to work:

  • Identifying what potential customers are searching for and how they’re doing it
  • Maximizing your visibility for your target audience
  • Analyzing the results and modifying the approach as necessary to boost its effectiveness

At its heart, SEO is the new face of marketing, and every business needs marketing in order to survive.

Being Mobile-Friendly is More Important than Ever

The so-called “mobilegeddon,” Google’s search algorithm update boosting the performance of mobile-friendly sites, went into effect back in April. But many sites are still lagging behind when it comes to making their sites easily accessible on mobile devices. As more and more users browse the net on smart phones and tablets, failing to create a mobile-friendly site will only harm the success and web visibility of companies that aren’t keeping up with the times.

What is Mobile-Friendliness?

Mobile-friendly sites are those that perform well on smart phones and tablets. Mobile web design must take into account a number of factors that don’t apply to standard desktop browsing, including:

  • Compatibility with a number of browsers and operating systems.
  • Appearance across multiple screen sizes.
  • Ease of access on small display, including image and text size and touchscreen-friendly navigation.

Sites with responsive designs that change to fit the size and shape of the device displaying them are the leaders in mobile friendliness. Other sites offer alternative versions for mobile and desktop users. This tactic can work, but it is swiftly becoming outdated.

How Mobile Compatibility Affects You

The simple answer is that if your site is not mobile-friendly, you are missing out on traffic. And, depending on your niche and target audience, you could be missing a lot of traffic.

After Google’s update, sites that rank well in desktop searches are often buried by inferior competitors in mobile searches simply because they are not optimized for mobile devices. And with more people using mobile devices than desktop computers to access the Internet, that change has devastating implications.

Mobile compatibility is especially vital if your site’s audience is more likely to utilize a mobile device. For example, young people use their smart phones to surf the Web more frequently than older users; if you’re marketing a trendy product to a young user base, mobile friendliness is essential. Similarly, if you offer a service that people might need on the go – like auto towing or locksmithing – you absolutely need to be visible on mobile searches.

Future Trends

It’s clear that the shift toward mobile devices isn’t a temporary trend. In the future, Internet access from mobile devices will only continue to grow – and keeping up with the times will become increasingly vital for your website. If you have not yet modified your site to work well on smart phones and tablets, you are limiting your audience and, ultimately, the success of your page.

Website Updates and Site Security: What You Need to Know

Internet security is important. While no site is ever 100% hack-proof, there are ways you can greatly diminish your risk of ever facing a security breach. One important step? Keeping your site updated with the newest barriers against malicious activity. And with SonicSEO.com managing your website, you don’t have to worry about missing any vital security updates – we’ll monitor your site and ensure it stays secure!

Security Should Be Your Top Concern

The security of your website affects more than the site itself – it also affects the user experience of every one of your visitors. You owe it to your customers to provide them with a safe browsing experience, free from viruses and other harmful content. And if you are collecting sensitive information of any kind, security is paramount.

What Needs to Be Secured?

Your content management system provides routine updates, providing bug patches, new features and security upgrades. However, updating the core program is just the beginning. Other routine maintenance is also necessary for maximum security:

  • Updating themes and plugins
  • Deleting disabled plugins and inactive themes
  • Removing any other unnecessary files and data
  • Updating the server software

Keeping every component of your site up-to-date is crucial for security. By routinely clearing out your site of unused plugins, software and other files, you limit the number of potential vulnerabilities in your site.

A Cyber Security Arms Race

Security updates for programs like WordPress work to identify and block external threats. However, hacking programs are constantly changing to meet these challenges, creating an arms race: As security becomes stronger, hacking becomes more sophisticated. What does this mean for you as a site owner? It means that missing security updates can very quickly put your site at risk.

There’s a silver lining to all this, though. Reputable content management systems have a dedicated staff responsible for creating these security updates, keeping your site safe against threats as they’re identified. And when your site is managed by SonicSEO.com, these security updates are handled by a team who understand their importance and know the best practices for keeping your site up-to-date and safe from threats.

Why Hire an Agency Instead of DIY SEO?

With more than 2 billion people using the Internet across the globe, it’s obvious that every business needs web presence – and if you want to be found online, you need good search engine optimization to get your site in front of the people most interested in what you have to offer. But when it comes to SEO, why should you hire a professional rather than do it yourself? And if you’re hiring an SEO expert, why work with an outside agency rather than having your own on-staff SEO guy? (more…)

Website Design Trends – You Don’t Need to Follow the Herd

Web design, like anything else, is subject to trends and fashions. One leading website will adopt a new design choice or innovation and suddenly it’s cropping up everywhere online. And, like all trends, the designs that are cutting-edge and trendy today will look dated or even laughably over-done in a few years when the fashioned change. (more…)

A Cyber-Bullying Response Plan for Your Family

The Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” is true in so many contexts – even in the world of cyber-bullying, where attacks can come from unexpected places and at surprising times. Talking to your kids about Internet safety and encouraging healthy technology usage is undeniably valuable, but it can’t protect you 100% from potential threats. By putting some thought into how you might react to a cyber-bully, you and your family can make plans and, if it’s ever necessary, put those plans into action.

The Purpose of Cyber-Bullying

Like other types of bullying, the goal of a cyber-bully is to exert power over the victim. Bullies want to feel important, and they do this by inflicting pain – emotional, physical, mental, etc. In the cyber-bullying world, they also want to destroy a victim’s reputation. Because things posted on the Internet have the ability to swiftly reproduce and last into perpetuity, it’s easier than ever to spread malicious rumors, and the effects of an attack can linger for years.

What Can you Do to Protect Yourself?

First, do not engage with the bully. Doing so will only escalate the situation and draw attention to them. If someone attempts to draw you into a conflict online, the safest bet is always to take a deep breath and walk away. Otherwise, you risk drawing additional people into the conflict or saying something that could later be taken out of context and used against you. Many bullies become bored and leave in search of a new target when their victim refuses to engage.

Next, follow these steps to isolate the event and prevent it from spreading:

  • Block or silence the bully across all forms of media, including Facebook and text message. You may also need to block some of the bully’s friends or associates to prevent them from fanning the flames.
  • Be careful about who you befriend on social media, and what those people have access to. Understand that some accounts may be “sock puppets,” or fake online identities used by bullies to have closer access to you.
  • Report offensive posts, images or videos to the hosting site, social media site, etc. If someone has posted a compromising photo or video of you without your permission, you often have recourse for getting it taken down.
  • If you feel that your safety is threatened, contact the police.

Planning in advance how you might react to a cyber-bullying threat will help you to respond better if you ever find yourself in that situation. Discuss this plan – and the other Internet safety tips we’ve talked about this month – with your family. Together, we can all do our part to reduce the power of cyber-bullying!

Monitoring Programs to Watch Your Child’s Online Behavior

In many ways, the Internet is like its own world. And just as you wouldn’t leave your kid alone to play in a strange neighborhood, you shouldn’t allow your child to explore the vast unknown of the Internet without a little bit of supervision. That’s where monitoring software can be extremely helpful.

Why Monitor Your Child’s Activity?

When most people think of monitoring or blocking sites, they assume the goal is protecting young eyes from adult content – and this is certainly one valuable use of these programs. But blocking adult imagery is only a small portion of how monitoring programs can be used. Most programs can also:

  • Eliminate access to social media and chat sites, preventing your child from interacting with strangers or peers who may be cyber-bullying them.
  • Stop the download of programs and files that may contain viruses and other malicious software.
  • Block games and other applications that a child may be using inappropriately, such as those preventing them from doing homework.
  • Record online behavior so that you can see what your child is doing online.

In effect, what monitoring software does is make the Internet a little bit smaller. By blocking off unwanted sites – or limiting a child’s access to only a handful of pre-approved, safe sites – you are reducing the number of potential dangers a child may encounter. The extra accountability from knowing that someone is watching can also prevent inappropriate online behavior, which in itself may help to curb cyber-bullying.

What Program Should You Use?

There are a lot of programs out there, each with their own perks and drawbacks. Depending on your needs, you may even be able to use the built-in security features on your computer to block access to unwanted material. It’s worth doing a bit of research to see what programs are best for your individual preferences and budget.

No matter what you choose, just remember the most important step: Talk to your child about what you’re doing. Let them know they’re being monitored and explain to them why. Discuss Internet safety principles. By using the monitoring as a jumping-off point for conversation – rather than hidden surveillance – you can help to ease your child into a lifelong appreciation for online safety. Together, we can all help to raise a future generation of responsible Netizens.

Mobile Changes

The principles of good web design have changed a lot over the years, but traditionally the way a site looked had no effect on its search rank. For years, search engine optimization has been a separate issue entirely from design: A great-looking site would appeal to visitors, but it was other factors like content and behind-the-scenes efforts that would drive traffic. These days, the issue is a bit more complicated.

It’s a fact that mobile browsing is on the rise, with more people searching the Web from their smart phones and tablets, and having a site that looks good on any size of screen is crucial. For many sitemobile website owners, that means using responsive web design. For others, it means running separate mobile and desktop versions of a site. But do these choices affect SEO at all? And if so, what’s the best decision?

Mobile Sites vs Responsive Design

If you don’t make any concessions for a mobile-ready site, you will lose valuable traffic. Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices will be hard to navigate or even totally unreadable on smart phone and tablet screens, so visitors will move on to another site rather than stay on yours. Your SEO may not be directly (more…)

Teaching Your Children About Basic Internet Safety

As a parent, keeping your child safe is a priority. You teach your kids about safety every day, from looking both ways before crossing the street, to never taking a drink from a stranger. But the modern world is full of unexpected dangers, and many families aren’t doing enough to protect their kids from online threats – including cyber-bullying.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber-bullying is activity taking place online or via text message with the intent to harm or humiliate a person. It’s often used to spread malicious gossip or otherwise destroy or discredit someone’s reputation. It can also refer to stalking behavior.

Protecting Our Youth

mobile social mediaYou probably remember the fear of the Internet that was instilled in parents in the 1990s. You may have even been a young person in those early days, when anonymous chat rooms were a thrilling, if risky, way to meet people. There was a general assumption back then that someone on the Internet could be anyone.

These days, the Internet is a lot less anonymous. Social media has given a face to the Web, and kids are just as likely to socialize online with peers and classmates as shady strangers with false identities. However, this doesn’t mean that the Internet is completely safe or that kids and teens – and adults, for that matter – should throw caution to the wind.

Teaching Basic Internet Safety

Here are a few important lessons to teach your kids when it comes to the Internet:

  • Nothing online is guaranteed to be 100% secure. There is always a certain level of risk associated with using the Internet, whether you’re buying shoes or posting to a diary. Remind your children to think carefully about the potential risks of information falling into the wrong hands before deciding to post something online.
  • The Internet never forgets. As soon as you post something or hit “send” on a message, it’s gone – you may never have the chance to undo it. Tell your kids not to be lulled into security by being able to delete their posts. You never know who might have saved screenshot or if someone could pull up a cache later.
  • There are still strangers on the Internet. While most people your child meets online are probably exactly who they say they are, there are still plenty of people who hide their identities or lie in order to get others to trust them. Caution your child to be very careful about disclosing personal information online.
  • Ask for help if you’re not sure. The Internet is a big place. It’s so huge that no one could ever hope to see it all in their lifetime – and it’s constantly growing. This means that there’s always a chance of finding strange or unexpected things online. If a child encounters something they don’t know how to deal with, they should always feel comfortable coming to you for help. Together, you can decide what to do.

SonicSEO.com cares about the safety of our children and community. We encourage you to have a talk today with your son or daughter about the Internet and how to stay safe. We also hope you’ll check back in with us for our future blog posts, where we give more tips for safe browsing for the whole family.