Checklist for planning your new website

Deciding on the right type of website for your business can be tough.  There’s the design, the content of the site, to blog or not to blog, and so much more.  But sit back, take a breath, and relax.  The beauty of websites is that they’re not set in stone.  You start out with a basic foundation and allow it to evolve.  Trust me, you don’t need to make all the decisions.  Once you have a website up, your visitors will start to tell you what needs to change.

First, think about the general ‘feel’ of your site.

Every website has a feel to it.  Some are very professional, some are warm & welcoming, some are whimsical, and everything in between.  The feel of your website should match the feel of your business overall.  What is the message you’re trying to send?  Are you a photographer trying to demonstrate your artistry?  Are you an attorney conveying a very professional and educated image?  Or are you a realtor trying to reflect a very personal and engaging feel.  The general theme you decide on will carry through your site; from the colors to the images to the font choices.  Deciding on the general feel your site is going to convey is a critical first step.

 

What is the purpose of your website?

This might sound simple, but it’s important to know what the overall purpose is so each part of your site can be geared towards that goal.  Are you selling a product?  A service?  Trying to collect information?  Trying to motivate people to take action?  Determine what your overall purpose is and this will inform each division you have to make when it comes to your website.  If there’s a part of your website that doesn’t contribute to this ultimate goal, it’s taking away from it.

 

Do you need a mobile / responsive website?

I’ll make this one easy for you — Yes you do.  I could list the statistics here of how many people access the internet through mobile devices, but by the time you read this, it would already be higher.  Just know that it’s getting closer and closer to 100% every day.  Quickly.  Not only that, but search engines are now ranking websites lower if they don’t have a mobile version.  That alone is reason enough to ensure you have a responsive website.

Virato_Multiscreen

What additional features do you need?

Websites range from very simple to very complex.  Think about it; your local Laundromat probably has a website that’s a single page with some basic information (phone number, address, etc.)  That’s a website.  Google is also a website.  But it’s has a ton of complexity and sub-domains (basically, sub-websites) to it.  So a “website” ranges in features and complexity.  A few key things to think about:

  • Do you need a shopping cart?  Will you want people to purchase something from a catalog of products on your website?

  • Do you need some sort of ‘portal’?  This is a portion of a site where users can log in with their own username/password to access areas that are specific to them.

  • Do you need to be able to manage and change the website yourself?  There are many platforms that handle this sort of site.  But know that building a single page website with 1 picture and 1 paragraph of text is different from creating a single page website where you can easily control the 1 picture and the 1 paragraph of text.  In the long run, a site that you have the ability to manage saves you time and money.

  • Do you need the site to link to any other online resources?  Common things would be linking to a Google Calendar, MLS listings, Social Media, etc.  If you have an online resource that you currently use and want some of the content from those resources to be displayed on your site, this will need to be built and configured on your site.

  • Do you need a blog?  And follow up question – do you need a blog that goes beyond the basic look and feel?  When you go to a huge blogging website like Buzzfeed or Mashable, these are not ‘standard’ blogs.  These blog pages have had hundreds or thousands of hours put into the design and development of the blog pages.  That’s what makes them stand out.  So think about your blog and how much of a focus it will be on your site.

What is your budget?

Of course budget has to be a factor.  But here’s where it’s important to make the right decision…..  Have you ever looked for a businesses website to get some information on them and couldn’t find it?  Probably.  It’s happened to all of us.  Think about the impression that leaves.  It’s not great — but at the same time, you still figure some businesses just don’t have websites.  Now, have you ever looked for a businesses website and found it — and it was HORRIBLE?  Yes.  This has also happened to all of us.  Now think about the impression that left.  You see a horrible website and carry that impression over to the business.  “Who would have a website like this?” you think (and so do I).  This is important to remember. First impressions are nearly impossible to erase.

Now I understand that hearing the advice that no website is better than a poor website may sound strange coming from a web development company, but it is simply the truth.  You don’t want a website that looks and feels cut-rate.  And we don’t want to be the team to give you one either.  When looking at budget, explore other options.  Maybe you don’t have the budget you need for the ‘right’ website today.  But can you allot an amount each month towards its development?  Find a website company that will work with you on the budget that makes sense.  And remember – websites are just like anything else in life – you get what you pay for.

 

There are of course more questions to ask.  The key is knowing your brand and finding a team to work with that will guide you through the process.

What other questions do you have about making your website a reality?

SEO: Then and Now

SEO is like fine wine…it gets so much better with age.

And now, at the ripe age of 20, it has hit its peak — much like me.

What is SEO?  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  And it basically refers to methods and practices used to ‘help’ search engines find a website.  Put simply, SEO is the blanket term for hundreds of different things people focus on to drive more traffic to their website.  Why is it important?  See the previous sentence.

In the beginning, there were websites.  They were all over the place.  www.this.com, www.that.com and www.nobodywilleverseethis.com (aol.com was during this time too.)  But unless you knew exactly where you were going, you couldn’t find anything.  Enter: search.  Search changed everything.  The websites that did the searching are “search engines.”  And just like any other technology, it started out very simply.  Come on….let’s look…

1994

The first real search engine site is created.  Webcrawler uses a program (referred to as a spider) to “crawl” through the internet one site at a time and see what’s happening on each one.  It ranks the top 25 sites across the internet.

Some other search engines are actually updated by people.  Yes real people sifting through the internet and ‘ranking’ sites.

1998

Google pops up.  I could end the story here, but I’ll keep going.  Google improves on how sites are ranked by looking at backlinks.  Backlinks are basically other sites that point to your site.  For example, if you create a website dedicated to the movie Top Gun (thank you, by the way, for doing that) and your neighbor creates a similar site, the old search method would rank you roughly the same.  But let’s say that 100 other websites around the internet are “talking” about your site.  And by talking about it, I mean they have a link to your site somewhere on their site.  These are backlinks.  Google looks at these and decides that your site should rank higher.  It gets a little more complex than this, but you get the idea.

1998 – 2011

So, a whole bunch of time goes by and the algorithms used to rank sites gets better and better.  But at its core, it is still pretty much based on links, keywords, and other things that are somewhat easy to fabricate.  If you can fit the word “chocolate” on your website more than the next guy, this helps your ranking when someone searches for “chocolate.”  You can buy thousands of fake back links for a few dollars.  And in general, there are various ways to “fool” the search engines.  During this time, Google continually improves how its search works and actually penalizes companies for using these tactics to fool their rankings.  Companies like BMW & JC Penny lose their high ranking because of the tactics they use.

2011

Google introduces Google Panda.  There is a lot to explain here, but the long and short is that Panda is a new approach to ranking that focuses on the quality of the content of a site, and not quantity of keywords or links.  The specifics are of course closely guarded, but it’s clear that if you are producing quality, unique content regularly, Panda will like you.  The biggest mystery is why they called it Panda.  I mean, pandas are black and white which seems to contradict the ‘grey’ area Google is now looking to for ranking a site.  Also, a panda eats one food.  One food — it’s entire life — one food!  Again, seems to go against the idea of creating unique & diverse content.  Personally, I would have called it Puma, but that’s just me.

Today

Over the last few years, Panda (and other search products & variations) have continued to improve.  So what does that mean for SEO today?  It means that the internet has caught up with thousands of years of business.  Before computers existed, people had businesses.  And if you wanted to keep customers coming back, you needed to do quality work and keep your customers happy.  That is finally true for the internet.  If you want to keep people coming, you need to put the work in.

SEO now means creating content for your website that is relevant, timely and unique.  Keep producing content.  Write articles & posts people want to read — and more importantly, share!  Share them yourself on social media.  Then repeat.  You will start to build a loyal readership which will translate into traffic on your site, which will translate into higher rankings on search engines, which will translate into higher traffic on your site —- are you seeing the cycle here?

There are still tips and tricks for great SEO, but they’re no longer ways to “work” the system.  They’re ways to entice and engage your audience.

What are some of the SEO techniques you have used?  How have they worked?

Get patients to ‘Like’ you using Social Media

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Using social media for your medical practice can be daunting and a little tricky to navigate.  But it has becoming an absolute necessity to build a practice and is one of the most effective ways to gain a large and loyal base of patients and promote more word-of-mouth business.  A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed 41% of people are open to sharing their information with health care professionals via social media, and 61% said they trust information they receive via social media!  And 70% said they would like to receive help from health care professionals via social media – including referrals!  These numbers speak for themselves – and they are growing every day!

Here are some tips and guidelines to start you off on the right track…

Privacy

This has to come first.  Not only is protecting your patients’ privacy the right thing to do, it’s the law.  You can be very active & engaging with patients (and potential patients) on social media without having to even come close to any HIPAA concerns.  As you start to grow your social media presence, people will post questions and concerns on your Facebook page, Twitter page, etc. and it’s up to you to address them appropriately.  As a general rule of thumb, try to put these questions into one of three categories and address them accordingly:

  1. General Information.  These are questions that are not specific to a particular person or their circumstances and can often be answered using a 3rd party source.  For example, you see on your Facebook page: “Dr. Caresalot, is Tylenol the right thing to take for my headache?  And how much?”  You respond… “Mrs. Headache, thanks for reaching out and checking in before just taking something you’re unsure of.  This is always a good idea.  While I can’t diagnose your pain you can read the general uses and appropriate dosage for Tylenol at this link: www.tylenol.com.  Cheers!”
  2. Patient Specific Question.  These are the questions where someone is asking you very specifically about their condition or symptoms.  For example, you see: “Dr. Caresalot, I woke up this morning with a horrible feeling in my chest and when I take deep breaths I feel a sharp pain. What should I do???”.  You DO NOT want to respond directly to this post within your social media page.  These are situations where you want to send a private message to the person, without any specific diagnosis or advice, but advising that they schedule an appointment as soon as possible.  If they can do this online through your patient portal, send them the link there.  If you can include days that might be more available, that is also very helpful.  The key here is to not provide any advice but provide a solution so they can get the help they need.  And very often you are that solution.
  3. Urgent / Critical Need.  These are rare but they do pop up.  This is when someone is coming to you with an urgent (possibly life threatening) question or situation.  In those circumstances, the best way to handle them is to call that person as quickly as possible to discuss their situation.  If you do not have their contact information, send a private message asking for it.  If you simply cannot call, you can respond privately that they need to seek immediate medical attention.  Again, these are very few and far between.  Most people do not go straight to social media when they have something life threatening happening.  But be prepared.

What to post

Here’s the million dollar question…..what do I post???  Well, it’s easier than you think.  You’re already in a unique position in which you hear from your customer base constantly about things they’d like to know more about and specific questions they have.

Always be on the lookout, every day, for a patient question that you think others might want to know more about.  You of course don’t want to post about a specific patient or situation, but if you hear a question or concern that you don’t always have the time to expand on, a Facebook post (or blog post that you ‘share’ on Facebook) is a great place to expand on the topic.  You can treat this the same way you’d write any other publication piece – general information & suggestions.

Listen for common misconceptions.  You hear these all the time.  Address them via social media.  If you’re always hearing “Oh I always have a stomachache, it’s no big deal…” address that.  You can’t diagnose it via social media, but you can absolutely let everyone know that something chronic like this may be a sign of something bigger and they should see their doctor.  You can even make it fun & eye catching, like titling the post “Misconception of the week” or something like that.  People love to stay informed and know a little more about a topic than the next person!

How-To posts are always a hit.  These can be Facebook posts, quick Twitter posts, a full blog post, or even a YouTube video.  The specific How-To you put together is of course dependent on your specific area of expertise.  It might be a quick way to self-diagnose, a generally accepted & globally safe ‘relief’ (not cure) for some minor ailment, or even a how-to of how to get the most out of an appointment with their physician; what questions to ask, etc.  This information is extremely valuable – especially when coming from an ‘insider’.

Keep it engaging

Social media is all about engaging your audience.  Ask questions, solicit feedback and always encourage participation.  You can have a ‘Q&A’ session via Twitter or Facebook (ask people to post question, then pick one to address.)  Even better, make it a recurring event that people can count on — something like “Ask me anything Wednesday”.  Ask people to share their experiences and things they found to be helpful.  This will stimulate conversations that occur completely within your social media environment.

Also keep an eye out for recent medical news and publications that your audience might find interesting or helpful.  You will often be aware of new developments sooner than your audience would be so share it.  Let them become ‘in the know’ sooner than their friends.  This is what is referred to as providing “social capital” and it’s what people are constantly looking for on social media.

Finally, if someone is particularly pleased with their experience with you, ask them to share it on your social media pages.  You don’t need everyone to do it, but if you don’t ask, you can rest assured that no one will do it.

Be consistent

Not much to say here other than don’t be a flash in the pan.  Don’t post twice a day for a couple of weeks then once a month after that.  Establish a schedule you can stick with, and STICK WITH IT.  Your audience likes consistency and reliability.  You don’t need to post every single day (although that would be great) but you need to post regularly with fresh content, and you need to stay roughly within your schedule so your audience doesn’t forget about it.  Be consistent.  Oh – and be consistent.  And final word of advice, be consistent.

What has your experience been managing social media for a medical practice?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Should you get an Amazon Echo?

The Amazon Echo is a neat device to have around.  It’s an evolution of technology in the same spirit we’ve seen before: the tech & the guts are pretty much the same as other devices available, but the way it’s presented and delivered is more modern and adds to the convenience.  Pretty much the same thing the original iPhone did.

Let’s get into it…

Packaging

First of all, the packaging was great.  It came in a sleek, nicely crafted black box that had everything packaged perfectly.  One of those boxes that you try to find a reason to save and use for something else.  Then after it sits on your counter for 4 days doing nothing, you finally toss it.

sleevelessbox

Setup

Setup was super simple.  Plug in the Echo.  Turn it on.  Download the app.  And through the app you connect it to your WiFi.  After that, with the app, you connect the Echo to your Amazon account, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and other services you might want to connect.  If you wanted, this could literally be the last time you used the Echo app.

The Remote

The remote for the Echo might be one of the most innovative ideas to come out of this!  It’s a small, simple remote with basic controls (mostly for controlling music playback).  But it comes with a little magnetic cradle.  Stick this thing anywhere (on a wall,
table, wherever) and then you always have a place to drop the remote without losing it.  In a house with 4 Apple TV’s, we usually can only find 1 Apple TV remote at any given time.  Amazon’s solution was brilliant!

 

amazon-echo-review-remote-3-1500x1000

Using the Echo

Using the Echo is pretty straight forward.  You say it’s name (choose from either “Alexa” or “Amazon”) and the blue ring around the top lights up letting you know it (she?) is listening.  Then you start talking.  I can’t even begin to provide a complete list of things you can say that are understood — it would be long.  The basics are there of course:

  • “what’s the weather today?”
  • “what’s the weather in Phoenix?”
  • “what time is it?”
  • “shuffle Billy Joel music”
  • “set an alarm for 1 hour”
  • “who won the Laker game”
  • “add ‘Blog about Amazon Echo’ to my to-do list”

The best thing to do is just try different commands / questions.  You’ll be surprised at what gets a response.  We ask questions about people, places & events and get good answers most of the time.  We have re-ordered previously purchased items from Amazon by saying “re-order coffee”.  And, it’s just a lot of fun.  Our kids love asking her questions, making her repeat things (“Alexa, simon says ‘I love to eat ice cream with broccoli on it”), asking her to tell us jokes, and more.

Music

What it really came down to for me is that I needed a good wireless speaker.  I was willing to spend pretty much the same amount that the Echo cost on one, and for the same price, I got a great speaker (it’s pretty incredible) plus all of this extra stuff.  For now, it’s similar to using Siri, but much much more convenient.  My wife – who is not tech savvy at all – has NEVER used Siri but has started to use the Echo.  She checks the time when her hands are full (we have 4 children), sets alarms for bed time (we have 4 children) constantly adds food to our ‘shopping list’ (we have 4 children), and puts on some loud music to drown out any background noises (We. Have. Four. Children!)

 

Amazon-Echo

So…Should you get one?

For the cost, It’s a fun gadget to have around.  There will be newer versions later that will improve, but for the most part, the version we have right now will constantly get better as Amazon continues to allow for more commands, connects with more 3rd party apps & devices (I can’t wait to say “Alexa, put on Top Gun in the living room!”), and upgrades the software behind it.  SHE is a welcome addition to our home and we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the same way.

So if you haven’t gotten an Echo yet, what’s holding you back?  Tell us what you would like to see Amazon improve on for you to add it to your cart!

What to do if your website is hacked. 5 Steps to sanity.

So you got hacked?

 

Don’t panic.  There are things you can do to prevent (or at least drastically reduce) the chances of being hacked, but right now, you have to deal with what is happening.  AFTER this is all resolved, then you can take the steps to prevent it in the future.

There are a lot of ways this could have happened.  Some of the most common:

 

  1. Someone gained access to your site by either guessing or using  program to “guess” your password
  2. Some sort of malware was used to gain entry.  You thought it was harmless, but it actually opened a door for the hacker to get in
  3. A bug or flaw in your website was used to gain entry

 

You might have noticed you were hacked in various ways.  Your site went down, you were notified by Google or your hosting provider, your site is up but has changed, your site is rerouted to another site, etc.  However you’ve become aware of the hack, it’s important to act quickly.

 

Step 1: Contact your hosting provider

Your hosting provider might already be aware of the attack and might be resolving it.  They may be able to see which file(s) are infected, and how to eliminate or clean them.  Contacting your hosting provider is the first step to rule out a more wide spread issue, and to get any assistance they can provide.  This is where your hosting provider will show their true colors.

 

Step 2: Check your local computer for viruses

You might have infected your site through your own computer.  Run an UPDATED virus scan on your location computer to see if anything pops up.  If you’re using an old version, that’s really not going to help you.  Malicious software thrives on attacking systems that have not been kept up to date.  Software is flawed – it has bugs and loopholes.  Updating patches these regularly.  You know who pays really close attention to the security patches that come out for major software like Windows, OS X & WordPress???  HACKERS!  And when they see what the patch is patching, they write software to take advantage of that loophole on systems that haven’t been updated.  So ——- run a scan with an UPDATED virus scan software.  If you find something, time to start researching that specific virus to see if it could be the cause.

 

Step 3: The technical part

You need to review your website files to see what is infected.  The infection could be something that was added to exiting files, or it could be brand new files added to your sites directory.  You will need knowledge of what should or shouldn’t be there for this to be effective.  So if you don’t have that knowledge, it’s time to reach out to a developer that can look at what is going on.  Only finding the root cause of the infection is effective in stopping it from happening again.  You can delete 100 infected files, but if there were 101, your site will be back to its “hacked” state in just a few hours.

 

Step 4: Be ready to revert to a backup

You don’t have a backup!?!?  Oh good – you do.  I must have heard you wrong for a second.  We’ll, good thing you’ve kept it up to date as well.  If you’re unable to remove the infection manually, you might need to completely uninstall your site (including the platform software it might be sitting on – like WordPress) and upload your backup.

 

Step 5: Change everything

It’s possible that you were specifically targeted and someone used unbelievably sophisticated methods to gain access to your site.  If you’re this important, you’re probably driven around in blacked out Escalades and wear a suit to bed — and you certainly shouldn’t be getting security advice from a blog!  If you’re not that important, then this probably isn’t what happened.  You probably had a weak password, you didn’t keep your software updated, or you opened a malicious file or link when you didn’t know what it was or where it was coming from.

So….change all of your passwords.  Make them difficult.  Random letters, numbers & symbols are the best.  Try creating some sort of pattern on your keyboard of letters & numbers & symbols you can follow (like drawing an arrow with your keys) or something like that.  It’s totally random, but can be somewhat easy to remember.

Update all software.  Your local operating system, and any software running your website.

Don’t open anything you that is questionable in any way.  It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many people open ZIP files because they have an important sounding name like “invoice” or “purchase confirmation” or something like that.  If you’re not expecting it, don’t open it.

BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!!  That is all.

5 websites you can’t believe you’re not using

The title says it all….so let’s get right to it.

www.CamelCamelCamel.com

CamelCamelCamel.com
CamelCamelCamel.com

CamelCamelCamel.com keeps track of the price of items on Amazon.com.  It will even alert you when a price drops!

www.AccountKiller.com

AccountKiller.com
AccountKiller.com

This site gives you instructions on how to permanently close (not just disable) any social media or other account you might have.

www.screenr.com

screenr.com
screenr.com

Screenr.com lets you record anything happening on your computer screen.  FOR FREE!

www.ninite.com

ninite.com
ninite.com

ninte.com is for PC users only.  Step 1: Get a new PC.  Step 2: Go to ninite.com.  Step 3: Sit back while ninite.com automatically installs all of the little necessary tools and programs you’ve accumulated over time (explorer, chrome, flash, java, silverlight, and HUNDREDS more!)

www.FollowUpThen.com

followupthen.com
followupthen.com

The easiest way to setup email reminders.  Period.  And it’s free for up to 50 reminders per month.

 

That’s it.  You should start using these 5 sites today!  What other indispensable sites have you come across?