» Helpful Tips to Avoid Digital Disasters

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

In today’s world, unfortunately there seem to be many chances for technology-related problem’s to occur – such as password compromise, information loss or spam attacks. While these issues may seem stressful, there are ways you can take simple steps to help avoid them for you and your business.

Here’s an overview of easy ways to help avoid common digital disasters:

Register Your Domain

The foundation of all-things-internet is the domain name. When you register a domain name, there are four functions associated with it.

  • Registrant – Website Owner
  • Administrator – Website Manager
  • Technical – Usually Webmaster
  • Billing – Accounting

Roles may all be held by a single person; however, it’s not recommended. It’s preferable to have at least two people with full control of your domain.

Domains are renewed annually; however, you can register them for more than one year (especially your primary domains).

Your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.) will notify you, periodically about pending expiration of a domain. The best way to prevent expiration is to link a credit card to the domain and make calendar reminders to check in on its status every so often.

Good news — even if a domain expires, there is 30-day time period to redeem your site and get it back in business.

Pro Tip: Anytime you change webmasters or other personnel on file with your domain registrar, do not forget to update it! Failure to do so can lead to domain problems.

Protect Your Hard Drive

A typical hard drive lasts about three years. The best way to protect your business and personal files and information is to replace it at or before three years to be safe. If you don’t, here are some other pre-emptive measures to keep your business running.

First, it is mandatory to have an external hard drive wired directly to your computer. If the computer has a 500 gigabyte hard drive, it would be wise to have a 1 terabyte external drive.

Second, it is wise to have a wireless backup drive, located in a different part of your home or office. As with the first backup, make sure the capacity is larger than the original computer.

Third, have an external drive backing up by broadband to the cloud. There are several popular products, such as: BackBlaze, Carbonite, and others. This final group is extremely important, especially if you are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood. There is nothing worse than permanently losing data. Saving key documents securely in the cloud is the best way to make certain it doesn’t happen to you.

Set Strong Passwords

Over the last few years hacking is on the rise. The more obvious hacks are big companies such as Target or Yahoo! among other high profile companies and groups.

Don’t think just because you are a one-person operation that you are somehow immune to such intrusion or danger. Whether talking about email, websites, credit cards or anything else, it’s time to take action and be cautious.

The best methods of self-protection are services such as 1Password.com or LastPass.com. These tools will help you generate different passwords for each of your accounts – which you should update often. With just a little effort, you won’t have the need to use the same password for multiple accounts. Plus, you won’t have to simply rely on commonly known information like the names of your dogs or family members!

Focus on Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization requires daily awareness and upkeep; SEO is not a one-time operation. When you build and launch a website, it will only be the first effort to create search engine optimization for your site. It should be monitored and updated often to establish the best performance for your business.

For those of you who use WordPress for your website or blog, one of the best tools is a plug-in, Yoast SEO. It is one of the simplest devices to recognize and apply good SEO practices – no high level of expertise required!

Protect Your Mobile Phones

The device we use most often is our cellular phone. Every year, companies such as Apple, Samsung and others make new versions of their phones – and they are not cheap — often with new models in the $750 range.

Of all the disasters striking a phone user, the worst is the immediate loss (or theft) of their phone. The shock of such a loss is quite jarring.

The iPhone has a feature (for iPhones, iPads, and computers) called FindMyiPhone. You can track down your phone, shut it off, or otherwise take it out of commission should it become compromised with your personal information accessible.

Remember, There’s No Need for Paranoia!

The best approach for safety is a good defense. Making sure you use these tactics will keep your business thriving, and prepared for unforeseen issues that may arise in the future.

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

startup-photos-v2With all of the competition in the wedding industry, even getting website visitors in your local market can be a big win! Once they arrive on your website, however, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead to get in touch with your business. It’s easy to get swept up in your own desires and ideas when building your website, but ultimately you need to think about how your prospects will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

Don’t worry; your website is a channel that can be optimized, just like any of your marketing channels! Read on for six easy ways to optimize your website for leads and inquiries.

Reduce form fields

When it comes to reducing friction for your website visitors, reducing the length or number of fields used in your form is one of the easiest ways to boost your conversion rates. The fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the more likely they are to submit a lead. Inevitably, though, shortening your contact forms is a trade-off – shorter forms generate more leads, but longer forms generate higher quality leads. The key is to think hard about which fields you truly need and which fields you can forego until you get the chance to learn more at the next point of contact or at the appointment. At the very least, you’ll want name, email, phone number, and wedding date; the rest depends on your service category and routing needs. Just remember: Keep it simple!

Prioritize form placement

If you want your website visitors to submit a contact form to get in touch, give your form top placement on your website. While today’s web users are used to scrolling past the “fold” to learn more, placing your contact form above the “fold” guarantees that they’ll see it regardless of their next action. In fact, Education Guru Alan Berg suggests adding a contact form to each page of your website to guide visitors towards submitting an inquiry. Whichever option you choose will ultimately depend on the layout and design of your website, but whatever you do, just don’t hide your contact form by placing it too far down on your homepage or by putting too many steps between their entrance and the form.

Utilize your reviews

Your WeddingWire reviews are easy to find and evaluate on your Storefront, but if a potential client is looking at your website you want to make sure they can find them there, too. When deciding whether or not to submit a lead through your website, couples are looking for proof that your work is quality and that your past clients were happy with the results of all your efforts. If a couple is reviewing your website, you’ve already made it through several stages of consideration and offering rave reviews will help make their decision easier. Select a few of your best reviews and add them to your website to help convince prospects that your business is the best choice. Make sure you add them close to your contact form so a happy client is one of the last things they see before deciding whether to commit.

Show off your awards

Awards are one of the best ways to lend outside credibility to your business. After all, you can say how awesome your business is, but your opinion isn’t impartial until someone else also verifies it! Showcase what sets you apart from your competition by featuring your awards near your form or in the header or footer of your website. Unlike other awards in the wedding industry, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences working with their wedding professionals. If your business is prestigious enough to be among the top five percent of wedding professionals on WeddingWire, we’ll provide you code so you can easily feature your award on your website for all visitors to see.

Test your calls-to-action

Could the generic text on your button or contact link on your form be the factor that’s driving down conversions? Or perhaps the color of your contact button causes it to blend in with the rest of your website? Test the color and text of your call-to-action or submit button to see if your conversion rates differ. Try changing your formal ‘Contact Us’ text to ‘Get in Touch!’, or use a contrasting accent color on the form button to attract more submissions. A word of caution, though – only change one element at a time (text or color) so that you can track which change truly had an impact.

Track and analyze changes

All of these changes will be hard to measure if you don’t have enough information to see what’s working! Tracking the number of inquiries you receive each month is easy enough to analyze, but then you’ll only be looking at one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important to use Google Analytics or other website analytics platforms (sometimes offered with your web-hosting platform) to track how many visitors you receive, how long they’re staying on your website, and how many pages they visit before submitting an inquiry or leaving your website. Keeping an eye on all of these things will help you understand the behavior of your website visitors and make changes that will improve your conversion rates and time on site.

Every website is different, and it may take some time to find the right combination to work for you. Remember to give it time – you likely won’t see changes in leads overnight, but that doesn’t mean your updates aren’t working! You can always ask for feedback from your friends and industry peers, or ask a client to explain what they did or didn’t like during their research. Happy optimizing!