Category Archives: Web Development

Fading Excitement over Microsoft’s New Web Browser

My excitement over Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, is rapidly disappearing as more and more details emerge.

Originally billed as a replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft introduced some potential (and since removed) confusion when it announced that the browsing experience in Windows 10 would default to the new rendering engine and ‘auto-roll’ over to the IE engine when it detected legacy code. So basically, one browser with two hearts. Fortunately, the masses have convinced Microsoft to make a stand alone browser on the new engine, and leave IE alone to die in piece. Or have they?

I believe the driving factor behind a new browser is simply marketing. You see the IE team really has made drastic improvements to the browser over the last few versions. The problem is, no one cares.  IE’s image is tainted with the horrific days of IE 6,7 and 8, and no amount of work to make 9,10 and 11 ‘modern’ has been able to shed that negative reputation. So what is the answer to win back market share from competitors? A new browser.

Rather than going back to the drawing board and evaluating “today’s web,” Microsoft has taken the heart of IE, the Trident rendering engine, and rebranded it as “EdgeHTML.” Don’t get me wrong, there are improvements to the new browser, but I’d bet those improvements could have been packaged as IE 12.

Microsoft’s marketing for this new browser, Edge, is gimmicky and reminds me of “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” from IE8.  Don’t know what “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” are? That’s because they weren’t useful, and no one adopted them.  From microsoft.com:

Accelerators. Accelerators give people easy access to the online services they care about most from any page they visit. Meanwhile, developers gain an easy way to extend the reach of their online services. Accelerators also allow users to browse faster by eliminating most of the clicks required to access desired content and services.
Web Slices. With Web Slices, people can see the information they want to see most often without going away from the page they are on, and developers can mark parts of Web pages as Web Slices and enable users to easily monitor the information they most frequently browse to, all while they move about the Web. Web Slices appear in the Favorites bar, where people can identify updated sites when in bold. From there, they can see a rich Web Slice visualization of their content with easy access back to the source Web page.

The touted features front and center on Microsoft’s new web browser, Edge, are “Inking” and are you ready“Cortana.” Inking is the ability to take notes over the content of a webpage, but seriously, how often have you needed to do this? Then there’s Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, that on my Windows phone, I LOVE.  MS has a hit with Cortana, so in historic fashion, that hit is being crammed into every nook and cranny, whether it fits or not.

My limited tests with Cortana in Windows 10 have left me frustrated and annoyed.  I can only imagine the experience will be similar with Cortana in Edge. Get me to Google and let me find what I need-  that’s it – I don’t need her (Cortana) stepping in to undo years of conditioned habbit.

Still not convinced that Edge is merely IE12 in a different skin? I’ll leave you with this comic pointing out the announcement of the new Edge logo, and the side by side comparison.

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Google Tag Manager

TagManagerRecently I have been putting quite a bit of effort into rolling out Google Tag Manager for many of our client sites. It has been a rewarding process and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First, what is Google Tag Manager?

One of the foundational building blocks of a website is the tag. It is a way that functionality can be added to the site in a fairly simple manner. The functionality can range from tracking activity and usage to adding features like chat to a site. Each one of these tags is generally pretty simple and easy to understand, but as the number and complexity of the tags increases the challenge of keeping track of them and making sure they are on the correct pages also grows. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in. It allows us to place a single tag called a container on the site and then add and remove tags to that container based on a variety of rules.

Once the container is in place tags can be added to the site without needing to touch the templates or source code, which greatly reduces the risk that something can go wrong when adding a tag. It also makes it much more simple to change or update a tag when needs change.

There is another benefit that I really appreciate: the ability to test tags before they are rolled out. This allows a set of tags to be tested on the site before they are rolled out to all users. This has been especially helpful when trying to troubleshoot complex tags.

This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with Tag Manager, but hopefully it is enough to give a glimpse into why I’m so excited about using it. If managing tags is something that you could use help with, get in touch with us, we would love to help you out.

Update Your WordPress (Because Security)

There are a number of reasons to keep WordPress up to date. The main one is security. Sure, it’s nice to have updated plugins and features, but that should come second. The most important features of updating your WordPress would primarily be security, with an added benefit of increased plugin features

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One of the most popular plugins to install is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This is a great plugin that is designed to provide WordPress sites with the ability to be fully optimized. The plugin also keeps the various SEO optimizations in a simple format. There are two main fields, SEO Title and Meta Description. The SEO Title is one of the main factors that go into search rankings, as it provides both a name and expectations for the content within. The Meta Description is the snippet of information that comes up in a search result, and is best used as a summary of the page with some level of a Call-to-Action.

The other two main features of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin are the Snippet Preview and Focus Keyword. The Snippet Preview allows you to see an estimate of what the organic search result will be for the page you’re optimizing in WordPress. The Focus Keyword helps to ensure keyword consistency in the page; it is not a Meta Keyword field (which is not at all recommended for use).

All of these pieces compile to make a plugin that provides a good level of benefit for its users. I have seen a number of updates come through for the SEO plugin with updated features and fixes. While these are all well and good, there was one glaring issue recently, security.

We recommend you update your WordPress and plugins at a minimum of every month, if you can. In case you missed it, WPScan discoverd a security exploit in the WordPress SEO plugin for un-updated versions in early March. The un-updated versions of the plugin are vulnerable to Blind SQL Injections. In brief, this security issue could lead to an individual to attack and compromise the entire site. There is a new security fix (version 1.7.4) for the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. I recommend updating this plugin right away.

There are a number of plugins and other add-ons for WordPress that can make the platform easier to use, or expand its overall use. Make sure your WordPress site and plugins are up-to-date to avoid new security risks!

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It’s Not You, It’s Facebook…

If you manage a Facebook business page, you may start seeing a decrease in likes over the next few weeks (or maybe you have already seen it). But don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong!

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Facebook recently made an announcement that it will be removing page likes for any memorialized or voluntarily deactivated accounts. So if you saw a significant dip in your numbers, it was because this action was done all at once and not slowly over time. This isn’t a bad thing; Facebook is just making it so that your message is reaching people who are actually USING Facebook. So what does this mean?

A Deactivated Account

A user can choose to temporarily deactivate a Facebook account at any time. This does not delete the account; it just sets it in a state of suspended animation if you will. All of the information is preserved so if the user chooses to reactivate the account, all of the information previously listed on their profile will still be there when they get back (including liked pages).

What this means for you?

When a user deactivates their account, it will appear in your Facebook insights report as a page “unlike.” Once the page is reactivated, it will show up as a new like. No harm, no foul.

A Memorialized Account

Another new feature rolled out by Facebook is the Memorialized account. Memorialized accounts are a way for people on Facebook to remember and celebrate those who have passed. A living user can actually identify a legacy contact that can access a person’s Facebook account in the event of their death.

A legacy contact will have the option to share a final message to old friends and respond to new friend requests. Legacy contacts cannot log into your account, remove or change existing posts or read your direct messages.

What this means for you?

When a Facebook account is confirmed as memorialized, it will appear in your Facebook insights report as a page “unlike.”

In short – Facebook wants to make sure that you are speaking to your real audience. By eliminating deactivated and memorialized accounts, you now have a more accurate representation of your actual audience.

Are you interested in expanding your Facebook reach a little further but don’t think you have the time? Send us a message – the brains here at TKG can put together an entire social management strategy to help support and grow your business.

 

Want Great Content? Do What You’re Already Doing

One of the biggest concerns I hear when it comes to content is “But we don’t know what to put out there.”

I get it. When you’re involved in the day to day tasks of running your business, it’s tough to think of creating content.

Fortunately, it’s likely you already have good things going on that you can re-purpose, re-use or recycle to make great content. OR, alternatively, you can add something simple to your daily routine that turns into regular content.

But first, allow me to give you a little inspiration.

You might have heard of a little TV hit called Glee, a weekly show about misfit high school students finding their place in the world through music. Maybe you’re a “Gleek” or maybe you think the show is the silliest thing this side of Fonzie jumping the shark, but there’s no denying that this show set a new precedent in cross-channel content marketing.

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In fact, ratings aside (which were great the first few seasons), this show set records with singles, albums and even live tours. For instance:

  • The first ever single released by the cast, “Don’t Stop Believin’” received platinum status with over one million sold
  • The cast overtook Elvis Presley as the fastest act ever to have 20 top 40 hits in just 57 weeks (Elvis was 88)
  • By 2011, just two years after the show aired, they had over 36 million digital single sales worldwide
  • By 2011, they had 11 million album sales worldwide
  • The show has several reality spinoffs, DVD and Blu-Ray releases, an iPad app and karaoke games for Wii
  • In 2011, a live tour kicked off…and of course, it wasn’t just a live tour. A concert film based on the tour was released shortly after the tour ended
  • The show has hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide who now create content about the show, often uploading tributes, songs and other manifestations of their fandom to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
  • And how’s this for power? The casts’ cover of Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” actually increased sales of Rihanna’s original single by 189%

Glee also inspired the mega-hits of Nashville and Empire, country and hip-hop nighttime soap operas, respectively. These shows also release albums and merchandise based on the music written and performed for the show. Nashville, now in its third season, has released TEN albums, the first of which reached number one on US charts.

Now, I’m not saying you need to release an album for your business (though that could be fun!).

What I am saying is that it’s likely that you’re already doing things for your business that could easily translate to content you can use to market yourself (and maybe even generate more revenue). Glee didn’t create “extra” music to give to the masses…they already had it within the premise of the show; they just figured out new ways to distribute it.

Here are a few ideas to create content from the regular things you do for your business:

  1. Do you release a newsletter? Each news item could be re-used as a mini blog post, told as a quick 60 second update to an iPhone video recorder, or recorded as part of a podcast series.
  2. Do you often answer the same questions for customers over and over? Create an infographic with great visual answers, start a helpful podcast that discusses and educates people on your industry, or start a “Pro Tips” section on your website.
  3. Do you have a dynamic and engaging individual in your company who loves working for you? Give this individual freedom and creative space to create short videos, take photos and post to your Social channels for you, about you!
  4. Does your company have a rich history, complete with old photos or videos left sitting in a box or lonely hard drive? Scan photos and release them regularly to your Facebook page or Instagram account with the hashtag #tbt to give customers a glimpse of all the great things that make you, YOU. It’s especially fun if you work in a technical field and you can show how far you’ve come!
  5. Does your company have a process you do every day? Document this process every day or week with a photo, then show the collage one month, six months or a year later!
  6. Do you have a customer or two that just LOVES what you do? Invite this individual to create content for you, either by showing off how your product or service works, or giving a testimonial.
  7. Do you have a series of pdfs or articles about a certain subject in your industry? Combine and edit this information as a free digital whitepaper that prospects can download in exchange for an email address.
  8. Do you have a core group of very loyal customers who buy your product regularly? Consider creating a membership club where these customers get “insider access” to special prices, exclusive products, and of course, short videos, articles or podcast episodes that talk about how you created something special for them.
  9. Do you have a salesperson or leader within your company who is especially knowledgeable about your products, trends in the industry, or common problems? Record a weekly podcast where this individual discusses a topic for 15-20 minutes. Upload to Soundcloud, Stitcher or iTunes at the same time every week and invite customers and prospects to listen and share.
  10. Does your company work with the same vendors time and time again? Profile your vendors on video or on your blog, ask them to explain why they love your working relationship, and post to your respective Social channels.

I’m sure there are many more regular things that you’re already doing in your business that can be converted to content. Don’t overthink! When it comes to content, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Nashville has now released two albums of songs by a particular cast member…after those songs already appeared on another album.

It just goes to show you, sometimes content is just about showcasing something you’ve already done in a new and interesting way. So what are YOU already doing?

How to Avoid Social Media Slip-ups

Okay, let’s talk about your social media plan.

If you have one in place, great. If you are still asking yourself what a social media plan is, that’s okay too. You’re in the right place.

Chances are, if your business has a social media presence, you’ve had to deal with some strange comments, unsatisfied customers or even downright nasty reviews. And the more successful your business is, the more likely you are to experience these encounters. Social media mistakes will inevitably happen, but you can avoid them harming your business by following the steps below:Social media symbols

PREVENTION

  • Have a Plan: Always have a plan that outlines what to do in the event of a crisis. Are you suddenly getting bad reviews because of a defective product? Has one of your employees delivered less-than-exceptional customer service? Make sure you have a plan on how to deal with comments, @ mentions, reviews or if your business page goes viral in a bad way.
  • Bring in the Experts: Do you have someone dedicated to watching your accounts? You should. Not only will you have an extra set of eyes monitoring your social media presence, but a trained PR person will be able to react to just about any situation that comes up. You should have someone dedicated to at least several hours a week — maybe more depending on the size of your business and the size of your social media following — to managing posts and interacting with the users on your pages.

WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS

  • Act Quickly: Do not let complaints or issues on social media sit without response. At a minimum, respond within 24 hours – but within a few hours is ideal. In today’s fast-paced world, the people reading your business page and watching your social media accounts are watching around the clock. They expect answers to questions as soon as they ask. Can you keep up? Because you’re expected to. If you let a negative comment or review sit for long enough, it will turn into an even bigger problem. Do what you can to nip it in the bud early and move the conversation offline.
  • Start a (Public) Conversation: Your customers and potential customers will be watching you to see how you react to the issue and they will judge your company’s morals and standards based on your reaction. The good thing about social media is that if you handle these types of issues promptly and professionally, lots of people will see it. The bad thing about social media is, well, if you handle it poorly, lots of people will see it.
  • Don’t Delete: Never delete comments, tweets or reviews. When you delete comments or try to “cover up” what your customers or potential customers are saying, you will start to lose your reputation and the trust that people have placed in you or your products. Instead, use the opportunity to be real with your audience while reacting and responding appropriately.
  • With that Being Said…There are some fires that you shouldn’t even bother putting out. Offensive language and all-out attacks must be handled on a case-by-case basis. If you are dealing with someone online who you just cannot get through to, ask them to contact your business or organization so that you can handle the matter privately. If someone is attacking others or using foul language or refusing to work with you towards a solution, it’s okay to pull the plug and walk away.

AFTER THE FACT

  • Apologize and Move On: If you truly made a mistake, own up to it. We are no longer dealing with the days of putting out a press release to cover up a mistake. Our social media world does not allow it. Admit you made a mistake, apologize for what you did, and tell your customers what you are doing to fix it and what you will do in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Coming clean and moving on will make your brand stronger and your customers will trust you more in the long run.

At the end of the day, your business needs to understand the power of social media and how professionally-run social media pages can make a world of difference. If you have a solid plan on how to handle negative remarks, comments or reviews, your business will benefit greatly from it in case of an emergency.

Have you ever wondered what that “http” is in your web browser?

httpHTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and it’s a request-response protocol that drives the web. Think of your browser as the client requesting information. It puts this request into a HTTP message and sends it to the server. The server will then send the response back to the browser. That response may be a picture or a webpage, for example.

The current standard HTTP/1.1 has been around since 1999 and it’s starting to show its age. Back then, webpages were much simpler and required fewer resources. Today however, a webpage can contain many additional resources to show you, the user, what the web developer built. Javascript, CSS, images, videos and even Flash are pulled in and rendered by your browser. This results in many back and forth request/responses and puts a large load on the server and the browser.

There are many techniques that attempt to alleviate the data transfer, but these methods are still at the mercy of HTTP/1.1 and its rules. Images can be compressed, resulting in less data transferred, or a server can tell the browser to store files locally (caching) so that future requests for that resource are pulled locally instead of being transferred again by the server. Web developers can bundle and minify resources. Instead of having 3 or 4 CSS files referenced (which means 3 or 4 request/responses over HTTP), we take those files and make one larger file. We can then take out white space and shorten it up to make it as small as possible.

So far, those solutions have worked but what really needs to happen is an evaluation of HTTP and a new version that is in line with today’s web. Enter HTTP/2.

HTTP/2 has been designed to speed traffic in a number of different ways. First, it transfers all data as binary instead of HTTP 1.1s for text message styles. The format is easier and more compact to transfer, meaning it will take less time to transmit. Next, the new version can deal with multiple data requests at the same time. HTTP/1.1 only allowed one data request at a time, meaning first get HTML, next get CSS, next get Image 1, then Image 2, then Javascript – a lot of back and forth. The result of HTTP/2 style requests is a faster and cleaner data connection. Finally, the new protocol includes server push. Today when you access a webpage, the server sends back HTML, your browser parses it and starts requesting additional resources like images, Javascript and CSS. With server push, a response from the server will send a page’s full content.

In order to realize the benefits, both the client and the server have to communicate via HTTP/2 and luckily the roll out of support has already begun. Realizing the full value is still a year or two away, however. Internet Explorer and “Spartan” will support it in Windows 10, Chrome and Firefox already support it. On the server end, the next version of Microsoft’s IIS will support it, with Apache support expected soon.

There is more to HTTP/2, but hopefully this has introduced to you a very important piece of the web, and how it’s being improved.

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5 Times More Reasons To Use Video for Your Business

In case you missed it, the Super Bowl was, ahem, pretty big this year. Arguably bigger? The fbcommercials. Love or hate football, this prime-time TV real estate often boasts some of the best and funniest ads of the year.

And if you’d like, you can easily catch all the ads on YouTube, taking the time to re-watch your favorites, or see the ones you missed while grabbing extra chip dip in the kitchen.

But here’s the exciting part (and the part your business may want to pay attention to): while YouTube absolutely smashed Facebook on overall commercial views, Facebook cleaned YouTube’s clock on overall shares.

FIVE TIMES as many shares, in fact.

As of the Monday after the Super Bowl, YouTube amassed a total of 234 million views on Super Bowl ads. Facebook couldn’t keep up with that number, mostly because not all the videos were uploaded directly to Facebook, and also because Facebook’s search still isn’t nearly as robust as YouTube’s (and people rarely go to Facebook to specifically search for video…at least, not yet).

When it came to overall shares of videos, however, Facebook accounted for nearly 70% of all shares for Super Bowl ads this year, even without many of the commercials being “native” (or uploaded directly) to the platform.

So what does this mean for your business?

  1. Video content is still king, and we know from our own client analytics that video always performs well with audiences, usually far outpacing photos.
  2. Facebook is placing higher and higher importance on native video on the platform. It’s great to host a video on YouTube (and you should continue to do so, since this plays well with SEO), but we already know the Facebook algorithm doesn’t play as nicely with outside links as well as it does to content posted directly to the platform.
  3. Views are nice, shares are great, and the further your video content spreads, the better.
  4. Video doesn’t have to be crazy high production to resonate with your audience. Most newer cell phones have fantastic cameras, so if you have 90 seconds and an iPhone, you can start connecting with your audience regularly with video.

The biggest lesson? Having a diverse distribution plan for your content is key to taking full advantage to how your audience finds you and interacts with you. Facebook is great, but it’s not the sole answer to an overall content strategy. Having multiple channels, and knowing how to leverage each one will contribute to your brand message and business goals.

“Oh I Forgot I Had a Website”

Oh I Forgot I Had a Website ImageWhile it’s not likely that you actually would ever forget that your business has an online presence, but that might be what the content and look of your site tell your visitors.

We all get busy running our businesses and making sure we are selling products. Fortunately, we at TKG are thinking about your website and we care a lot!

We took a look and, trust us, we were equally excited about the big news you announced proudly on your homepage in 2009! Unfortunately, it’s now 2015 so it is not quite as exciting.

That brings us to the photos you have of your team proudly displayed in your About Us or Meet the Group section. Everyone looks great, but unfortunately half of them are now gone as that photo is circa 2005. Or even worse (better?), you now have 30 employees, rather than the 10 shown in the photo.

So all joking aside, what kind of message does this outdated kind of info and look convey to visitors?

  • Do these guys update anything?
  • Are they almost out of business?
  • Is this really a company I want to do business with?

Other recent TKGenius blog posts have talked about the importance of things such as technology, keeping up with browser compatibility and responsive design. What your site says (or doesn’t) can be as important as the technologies used. It’s why we don’t take a one size fits all approach with our clients at TKG. We evaluate what you have, take the time to understand your goals and strategize to make the right recommendations to move your business forward.

So remember that website you have? Go take a look. Are you proud of what it says about your company? Would you want to do business with your company? Is it time for a few updates, a facelift or maybe even a complete overhaul?

We’re here for you. Get connected!

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Real Time Responsive Design Test

Responsive Design – it’s not just a buzzword. We’ve written quite a few blog posts on the subject here at TKG. We’ve stressed the importance of providing a powerful, functional web experience whether the user is sitting in front of their PC or in the back of a taxi cab miles away from home.

Chances are if you are already working with an online marketing firm, you know whether or not your website is, in fact, responsive. But for the small business owner who doesn’t have a bevy of web experts at their disposal, this can be a tricky question.

Enter the Mobile Web Transmogrification Portal! The what? Transmog is a simple tool that generates a real-time working preview of your website as it would appear on various mobile devices. Preview options include the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy S3.  Simply plug your URL into the tool and choose the display choice. You can toggle through the different display types and click through to any page on your website. The display updates real time so you can see whether your entire site is responsive or if your homepage is the only piece that is user-friendly.

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We’ve captured a few examples of what a nice, responsive website looks like on the iPad and Galaxy using this tool. Give it a try! If you aren’t pleased with what you see on the display, you know where to find us!

TransMog Responsive Test - iPad TransMog Responsive Test - Galaxy