Blockchain Applications That Can Help Your Small Business

blockchain

Blockchain and cryptocurrency were words of the year in 2017, largely due to the latter’s meteoric rise in value over the course of the year. By December 2017, everyone was talking about the valuations and the technology.

But the implications for business were often thrown by the wayside as speculators, including average citizens, rushed into the market, giving projects with little more than a white paper million-dollar valuations. Some projects, though, offer quite a bit of promise, and the blockchain as a technology itself certainly has potential, with a plethora of use cases poised for testing.

Keeping businesses – and reviewers – honest

business-integrity

SEO is vital to businesses in a competitive market. When people need a service, they go straight to the internet, and search engines are where they find those services. Without SEO, your business disappears into the ether, making it hard to find new customers. Immediately after finding a few businesses, though, customers look to reviews.

Those reviews often make-or-break deals. In person, you might have raving reviews from your customers. But few people trust the testimonials on a website. After all, it is trivial to add a name to a quote. Blockchain, with its unchangeable and transparent nature, will change that. And it will change it in two ways.

First, all reviews from the same person will be linked to that person. Perhaps a company will emerge that verifies offline identities and connects them to the online account, so we can know there is a real person associated with it. That will ensure the business remains honest. Furthermore, since the account is linked to a specific person, it will keep them honest. If a reviewer holds a grudge against a business or acts as a troll, they can be easily spotted due to the transparent nature of blockchain.

The second way honesty can change is through smart contracts. Writing an agreement in code and uploading it to a blockchain is better than setting it in stone. It is now part of an unchangeable, globally distributed network that is very difficult to eradicate. It resides in no single place and no single entity can control it.

Even better? The terms will be codified. Whenever the contract is completed, the entire blockchain will be notified. Reviews can be unlocked only after service is completed, again keeping reviewers honest. Conversely, if a company fails to complete the contract as stipulated, the entire blockchain will know, and that issue cannot be erased, thus keeping businesses honest.

Transactions and eliminating the middleman

Cryptocurrencies need blockchain, but blockchain does not need cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless, the two are closely related, and one way for small businesses to take advantage of blockchain is through the use of cryptocurrencies. One of the driving forces behind Bitcoin and other cryptos is to eliminate the transaction fees charged by middlemen, which are usually quoted in percentage terms. Crypto transactions are usually flat-rate, which is good for transfer of large amounts. However, even for small amounts, using the right crypto will still yield significant advantages, as the transaction fee may only be a couple cents.

If your business wants to accept cryptos, you can skip the fees charged by banks. You must be careful to choose a low-fee coin, though, otherwise you’ll be paying more in fees than you’re currently do! Several major companies now accept cryptocurrencies, and your small or medium sized business doesn’t have to miss out on it just because it’s small.

Other Use Cases 

As noted at the beginning of this article, there are tons of use cases for blockchain. Only you can decide which one is most relevant to your business. Do some research and find the best one. You might find that currently there is no blockchain project that relates to your business. In that case, you can start your own.

The internet is in many ways still the Wild West of commerce, even if regulations and consolidation are leading to most traffic flowing through certain platforms like Facebook and Google. So, yes, you need SEO to get noticed on those big platforms, but you can also start your own projects and potentially become a platform yourself.

And even if you have no interest in starting your own blockchain, there are plenty of projects still in their infancy. With the hype around blockchain dying down (as evidenced in those Google Trends links at the top), the technologists will be paying more attention to legitimate projects and you only need to wait a few months until a blockchain might be relevant to your business.

nick-rojas

Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto. You can follow him on twitter: @NickARojas

Difference Between Web Design & Development

Difference-Between-Web-Design-Development

One of the common misconceptions out there is that web designers are the same as web developers. You may think they do the same thing when in fact there is a difference between the two. Let me explain below what each person does.

Web Designers

A web designer is an expert with graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and uses these graphics to create certain themes or looks for a website. The designer’s creation is then attached to coding and uploaded online. It is important to note that not all web designers are experts at writing code, and they do not always deal with the coding that their designs will be attached to.

Sometimes designers do not even meet the team who will help their design go live. Web designers are creative and imaginative, and need to have an eye for aesthetically pleasing images. Supplementary education for a career in web design includes graphic design, or other arts classes such as photography. Many designers even study classical art techniques in order to better understand colour, use of space, or audience. One of the most important things for a successful web designer is a portfolio of their work, used to showcase what they are capable of to potential employers.

Once a web designer finishes a website, they will have to hand the website over to a web developer to code it to a live, functional website.

Web Developers

Although some parts of a developer’s job can overlap with a designers, there are some aspects that are completely different. The main job of a web developer is to work from the back-end of a website in order to build the frame, a frame which the design is then placed on.

Developers are very well trained and know coding languages as well as HTML, Javascript, JQuery and CSS. Rather than make the site look aesthetically pleasing, developers are more focused on making a website that runs smoothly and works well. Developers often study computer science, computer programming, and anything related to computer technology. In order to do this job, you need to enjoy tweaking the smallest details and performing tasks that may seem redundant to some. Developers also often have portfolios, and although they will look vastly different from a designer’s portfolio, they serve the same function.

So, it is clear to see that both jobs have a specific function in completing a greater goal: the creation of a website or online interface. In order to make a site that users enjoy, the design must be appealing, and the development must be sound so that it runs smoothly. When both these elements work in harmony, the user is more likely to return to that site.

Now for the complicated part: it has become more and more common for designers to delve into learning code and for developers to begin learning design theory. This is great for those who are exploring both fields as they have a greater skill set, and it is great for employers who may only have to hire one person for two jobs. It is possible for someone to be both a developer and a designer, and this makes them a hot commodity.

A benefit of this merge is that it is becoming much easier for developers and designers to communicate effectively. Due to the amount of jargon in the fields of design and computer science, it can be easy to fall into an explanation that someone outside of the field does not understand. A way that many designers and developers combat this is to avoid jargon as much as possible, and show each other rather than tell what they are looking for. As more people cross over from design to developing and vice versa, these techniques may not be needed as much.

So, now you know the difference between web developers and web designers, and how that distinction is quickly blurring into one title. Although it is very possible to do both tasks well, most people will always be better at one job, and they usually make that their primary focus. Remember, don’t always assume that a designer is a developer, or vice versa!

Contact us if you have any questions on web design or developement.

Tracking Local SEO Results

Our goal here at Meaningful Marketing is to provide better search rankings for our clients. It’s pretty simple.

But how do we track those results? Since the search results are always changing, we have to stay on top of the results by using software. We use BrightLocal as we believe they have the best local SEO software around.

On top of tracking our clients search rankings, we can also track their:

  • Reviews from 10 of the leading reviews site
  • Business listings (past and the ones we create)
  • Google My Business rankings & insights (keyword rankings for five keywords & insights for phone calls, clicks to websites and direction requests)
  • Social Media posts and engagement
  • Google Analytics traffic

Here’s an example of a clients SEO dashboard. One simply click and you can see lots of data related to SEO and online marketing.

Website Growth Tracker

As nice as that dashboard is, it doesn’t track other things and the Google Analytics along with social media tracking doesn’t show growth. Thankfully Charlotte O’Hara has created some really awesome templates where you can track your websites growth. From Google Analytics stats to social media follower growth, she’s got it all covered!

Check out her post and if you like the idea, purchase those templates for a small price.

Also, take note and how her blog post is a method of linkbuilding. She created a great piece of content, did some outreach and is sure to get many more backlinks to that post.

Are You Getting A Custom Website or A Theme?

are-you-getting-custom-theme

Over the years, we have worked on close to a hundred websites. A few of our current and past clients have come to us with websites created or designed by another company. In a few of those cases, the client has paid a web design company to “design” them a website.

But they haven’t paid for a custom design. Instead they’ve paid for a pre-made theme. I’ve listed one major reason why custom WordPress themes can be a nightmare. Another reason why pre-made themes are not a good option is that they are often bulky and very slow to load. Sure they look pretty, but they have way too many plugins and files that take the web browser too long to load. This obviously affects the user experience.

In the end, how can someone can call themselves a web designer or web developer if they don’t create custom websites from scratch or have little coding experience? I’ve heard of a few reputable web design companies charge $7000 to simply plug in content to an existing theme they paid $70 for over at Themeforest.

Full disclaimer: we have done this for a few clients on a serious budget. But we don’t take credit for the “web design”. We don’t believe this is true web design.

In saying that, should you employ someone to create a website from scratch, or buy a pre-made theme and plug your content in? Read on.

The system to use on a website varies on two factors: the server technical requirements and the developer’s level of knowledge on different platforms. Custom and pre-made templates have their share of pros and cons, depending on the site’s budget, goals and needs.

Custom Website Design

A custom website design involves a designing firm that will do all the professional work, someone who will focus on your brand, goals, and needs. The firm will take into account the SEO best practices and determine what ROI type you are looking for. With a custom website, you will have full control of the whole process and the features to be used.

Since custom websites don’t only consist of how a website will appear, the development process usually takes longer during the early stage. But, in the long run, it will save time since the designing firm will make sure that your website will perform as designed.

Website designing entails great effort and time, and glitches may arise if not done properly. This is where a designing firm comes in. Templates are great for simple organizations that want a website that works only as a business card and without intricate processes. However, if you desire more than that, then custom website design is ideal for you.

Theme-Based Website

With a theme-based website, coding and layout are already done. WordPress, an open-source blogging tool, and CMS, offers a wide variety of themes you can choose from. Theme-based websites are available on websites like ThemeForest, a theme website developer that aims to sell as many copies as possible.

With these premium themes, they often over do it with an excessive number of plugins that are unnecessary and too many plugins causes the page load speed to slow down. What these plugins achieve could be done with just a little bit of extra coding. When using plugins. You are prompted to update them for compatibility as WordPress updates are made. This can cause the site to break and you’d have to incur extra fees by hiring someone to do the maintenance updates to ensure no compatibility issues.

When using WordPress with too many additional and unnecessary functions like plugins and extra settings that are not applicable to your business, it can make your WordPress interface cluttered and confusing. Causing you to struggle to make simple website updates and changes to your site. We’ve lots of frustrated SEO clients with existing premade themes needing assistance to make, what should be, simple edits.

Some web designers prefer theme sites if a client isn’t too selective about the looks of the site. This way they can easily produce a website that is up and functioning quickly. Most of these theme-based sites have coding already written for customers. The only thing to work on is applying images and content, make some minor adjustments and you are ready to go.

Based on its quick setup, new WordPress sites produced from premade themes normally cost less compared to custom-coded websites based on a customer’s specifications. However, that is roughly the sole benefit a customer can get from buying a theme-based site.

The Bottom Line

A website can be an extremely potent tool if created properly, but a poorly made site can work against you. No matter what kind of website you require, the most crucial factor you should focus on is choosing the right designer.

So choose wisely and ask the question “Am I getting a custom website or a premade theme?”.

Exercise Caution When Using These Web Design Trends

exercise-caution-when-using-design-trends

There are many new web design trends are introduced yearly. Similar to the trends in fashion, new trends in web design are embraced instantaneously while the previous ones wane. New trends are inevitable due to the different needs of our society and the ever changing industry. However, web designers must be wise in utilizing these trends.

Below are web design trends to use with caution:

Hamburger Menu

hamburger-menu

The green highlighted box in the above image is known as a hamburger menu.

Due to various technological advancements, the most widely used devices to connect to the internet are handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. As a result, web developers have made designs much simpler by introducing hamburger menu. This menu hides all the navigations, and this resulted in the development of the desktop website. The hamburger menu helps by making the website clean and with one tap, you’ll open a menu instead of putting all items on the site.

But this type of menu doesn’t apply to all websites. With news and e-commerce websites you have to place each menu on the front end instead of hiding it all in a hamburger.

Front-Page Carousels

Many modern websites utilize carousels. Carousels keep the text formation and photos in order and permit the addition of visual interest. If a carousel is used frequently, the website will look almost the same and less difference will be observed. SEO specialists claim that a carousel isn’t good for search engine optimization since it has no text and prevents sufficient meta info from getting into a page.

It isn’t vital for a text to be over the fold; however, Google will not recommend placing the content lower down the page. A carousel will push the text lower, which greatly affects the usability.

A carousel gallery with high-resolution pictures will not only be under-optimized but will also slow down a front page of a site, which must load as fast as possible.

Floating Elements

It seems that you can find floating element almost everywhere – from floating social media icons that let you click it to floating menu, which does not disappear even if you scroll down the page. It’s no wonder that they catch the attention of users. However, floating elements can push away users by obstructing the content they want to look at.

For users who access a website through their mobile, floating elements can be a nuisance, since the small screen can block more of the content. This is a sure way of dissuading users from staying or going back to your site.

Flash Animated Load Screens

Nobody wants to face a complex load screen which can’t be easily removed and forces users to sit through it. If a site has a flash animation that lasts more than 10 seconds and doesn’t let the user see the content, it’s likely they will not revisit the site at all. Another loading screen that prevents the user from revisiting is a counter that climbs to 100 percent. This counter is normally placed in the middle of the screen and requires the user to wait until the site finishes loading.

Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling produces an impression of depth by letting the background of the content move slower than the foreground content as the user scrolls down.If used well, the results are amazing, and recently it has become popular. A good example of parallax scrolling used effectively is the site for the Firewatch game.

It is perfect for sites that require amazing presentation and have less text, like websites that showcase services and products. However, issues may arise if parallax scrolling is applied on sites with a lot of content. Parallax sites have the tendency to use a single page instead of separating the content into various pages. This can badly upset SEO for it can restrict the amount of content that search engines can crawl. Sometimes there are texts that are embedded in graphics, which further restrict content visible to Google.

Sites that utilize Parallax also tend to have slow loading time because of the heavy usage of JavaScript and graphics. This problem will worsen if handheld devices are used to view the sites.

All of the mentioned trends are amazing if they are used properly, however, be careful and take into consideration the possible problems you might undertake prior to using them. Websites greatly vary, and it is in the hands of web designers to determine what’s best for a certain website.