What is Chromium?

Is Chromium, the next browser from Google, trying to take over for Chrome?

At a recent I/O developer conference, Google’s senior VP of products, Sundar Pichai, announced that Google Chrome now has over 1 billion active users. Though Microsoft has pushed their Edge browser hard, consumers simply like Chrome better. So, why mess with perfection?

Google Chomium

The Chromium browser project actually does not attempt to improve upon Chrome. It is an open-source browser that works more as a shell or window manager for the Internet instead of as a standard browser. The tabs work more as a title bar for desktop applications and are designed to manage groups of applications.

Chromium’s Quick Search Box simplifies the way people access the Internet, including their personal content. The Chromium OS combines these two common activities to make navigation faster and more intuitive.

How Chrome Differs from Chromium

Google has taken the basics of Chrome and added some important open-source bits that may attract those who love and use open source programs. A few of these include:

  • Adobe Flash (PPAPI). Chrome includes this Flash plug-in that gets automatically updated each time Chrome is updated. In order to experience the best in games and graphics, computers need the latest version of Flash. Their sandboxed Pepper API (PPAPI) plug-in can be installed on Chromium, but this is not done automatically.
  • Support for AAC, MP3, and H.264. Both browsers include the basic codecs, such as WAV, Opus, Vorbis, Theora, VP8, and VP9. Chrome provides licensed codecs giving users access to a wider range of media and content.
  • Extension Restrictions. These days, many extensions have been released that can actually harm your computer and zap resources. With Chrome, all extensions that are not found in the Chrome Web Store are automatically disabled. A recent investigation found that some rogue extensions can highjack your computer’s resources and use them to mine cryptocurrencies. This will cause your computer to slow way down and behave in unusual ways.
  • Updating Google regularly. Both Windows and Mac users have an app running in the background that keeps Chrome always up to date. Chromium lacks this convenient feature.
  • Security Sandbox. One of the best features of Chrome and Chromium is that these browsers have the security sandbox enabled by default. A few browsers, including some Linux programs, will disable Chromium’s security sandbox, which can cause random issues.

Why Build Another Web Browser?

Google’s developers designed Chromium in an effort to build a better, safer, more reliable way for users to surf the web. By allowing developers all over the world to work on the project, they felt that Google Chrome could be significantly improved upon. However, this hasn’t happened.

Chromium is still largely misunderstood by the masses and has not generated the global interest that other open source products have. For instance, the Linux operating system has become a very trustworthy program that is used today by about half of all Internet servers. It’s reliable and secure. A number of programmers and developers will always be fans of Linux no matter what. It remains freely distributable, allowing anyone to create a distribution for any purpose.

A large community of developers worldwide worked on Linux for many years and their hard work produced an amazing family of free, open-source operating systems. These programs are used in education, business, finance, video games, and supercomputers, among others. Linux set the bar high for open-source software collaborations.

Today, users can still get excellent support from these developers. Companies like Red Hat and SUSE still offer commercial support as well. The dream for Chromium was that global developers would continually improve upon the program until it far surpassed other browsers on the market.

Why Chrome is Preferred

Today, in spite of the many good browser choices available to users, Chrome is hard to beat. This may add to Chromium’s lackluster appeal. Below, are a few of the reasons why Chrome users say they will continue to use this browser over Chromium and others:

  • Extensions and apps are integrated seamlessly. Firefox takes months to add a new app or extension for new sites, programs, and content.
  • Ease of use and installation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to install and use Chrome. It has a very clean, organized design that takes away the confusion that new users may experience. That makes it perfect for groups like the elderly who need programs that work without much ado.
  • Bookmarks and favorites can be quickly transferred to a new computer, phone or tablet. Chromium and Firefox both use a more disorganized system of transferring your bookmarks that can be painfully inconsistent.
  • Lack of understanding is another hurdle for Chromium. Because it is not a standard web browser, users may get confused about exactly how to manage applications and programs.
  • Efficiency and speed. Today, people expect to assert almost no effort when using the computer. They want everything to work seamlessly without additional effort or education. The need to be user-friendly is a giant obstacle to overcome when creating new apps, computers, programs, etc.

Getting Started with Chromium

Chromium is still a good option for those who are looking for open-source software and who want to avoid closed-source bits. Linux distributions may incorporate Chromium instead of Firefox simply because it’s so much like Chrome, yet offers good open-source attributes. Of course, Chrome still offers a better Flash player and a few other good features. For instance, using Chrome on Linux, users can now stream Netflix videos, an attractive quality for those who love Netflix. Chromium does not offer support for HTML5 video content.

Despite its drawbacks, numerous users including developers are working on Chromium. Getting involved in this project is easy. New users might begin by visiting forums and developer discussion groups. There, you can meet some like-minded individuals and get up to speed. You can also get involved by volunteering to help with testing. Chromium developers are looking for reduced test cases that improve web compatibility.

There is always a wide range of issues from translation problems to file bugs that developers can help with. Submitting patches can be extremely helpful. In the end, Google’s hope is that Chromium will become a fast, responsive program that is secure and dependable. It remains to be seen whether this will happen or not. Though Google is a trusted brand globally speaking, the company does sometimes create an “Edsel” when it comes to new programs, software, products, and apps.

Your Small Business Needs a vCIO to Manage These 10 Technology Priorities for 2018

If you’re the owner or CEO of a small business, then you’re probably already functioning as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) as well. Most small businesses can’t justify paying for both. This means you have to take time from your priorities to manage your technology, ensure that it’s secure and decide what IT solutions to use. It’s not as easy to do this as it was in years past, simply because of the fast-evolving nature of technology, and the increasing incidence of hacking and data breaches.

vCIO

But, did you know that you can “hire” a Virtual CIO (vCIO) at a fraction of the cost of hiring a CIO?

What is a vCIO?

A virtual CIO is a technology service provider who serves as your CIO. They help you develop an IT Strategic Plan, with up-to-date resources to ensure security, productivity, and efficiency. Rather than hiring your vCIO, you pay for the service on an on-demand basis.

This frees you from the daily worry about technology and whether it will run as it should. It also frees up your limited internal resources and allows your employees to concentrate on their core responsibilities.

A vCIO Will:

  • Gain an understanding of both your business and your technology infrastructure and make sure your IT is aligned with your business goals.
  • Help you with IT budgeting and cost control strategies to achieve your priorities and avoid unnecessary costs.
  • Analyze any inefficiencies in your existing IT infrastructure and centralize/consolidate resources and operations to promote considerable financial savings.
  • Advise on Organizational IT Design and replace outmoded processes so you can pursue market opportunities and overcome business challenges through updated, value-based technologies.
  • Effectively incorporate technology into your operational processes and ensure security at all times.
  • Develop and IT Strategic Plans that aligns with your budget.
  • Learn about your competition, and what new IT solutions they are using.
  • Interface with your managers and users to ensure that you meet your IT goals.
  • Identify and evaluate the impacts of your technology decisions.
  • Conduct ongoing evaluations to assess your IT needs and provide service performance metrics.
  • Manage technology needs for specific projects, whether they are new ones or ongoing.
  • Deliver monthly updates to your management, provide Quarterly IT Summaries that reveal the condition of each component of your network, and prepare other reports as required.
  • Provide procurement assistance to ensure you get the best prices on hardware and software.

Your Virtual CIO Will Help Your Achieve These 10 Technology Priorities for 2018.

 Cybersecurity

Security is an essential factor for any organization, and small businesses like yours are the biggest target for hackers today. Risk assessment, data protection, training awareness, and third-party security practices are necessary to ensure maximum security and protection. Continuous diagnostic monitoring is required to view your network, identify risks, quantify attacks and/or breaches, and mitigate them. Digital forensic tools are especially important for companies that require regulatory compliance and incident management. Identity and access management is a security practice that enables only authorized individuals to access resources to comply with security and compliance requirements. These are crucial elements for any business. Your vCIO will manage all these and other cybersecurity requirements for your business.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Disaster recovery and business continuity refer to your organization’s ability to recover data after a disaster occurs and when IT services are shut down or compromised. Both practices involve the process of backing up data and preparing policies and procedures to implement in the event of a disaster. Your vCIO will confirm your business can stay up and running no matter the IT disaster, manmade or natural.

Mobile Workforce Technologies and Solutions

With the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, organizations are using mobile devices more than ever. Your business is competing in a mobile, technology-driven economy, and you must rely on your mobile workforce to ensure customer satisfaction and product/service innovation. The right mobility solutions ensure secure and simple access to data, tools, and applications from any location. Your vCIO will help you consider applications, support, ownership, security, and communication issues and policies that will ensure your mobile workforce is always productive, and your data is secure.

Cloud Computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Virtualization

Software as a Service utilizes a cloud-computing infrastructure to deliver a single application to your employees no matter their location. This is opposed to relying on the traditional one application per desktop. Cloud services are available to your employees via the Internet from a cloud provider’s servers and used instead of your company’s own on-premises servers. Virtualization refers to the creation of virtual servers, desktops, storage devices, applications, and computer network resources. You can virtualize your entire IT infrastructure or just specific aspects of it. Cloud services and virtualization provide easy, quick, scalable access to resources, applications, and services, and simplifies your overall IT infrastructure to promote efficiency.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Enterprise Resource Planning involves the use of business management software that combines a variety of integrated applications to store and manage data for all aspects of your business operations. It includes product planning, manufacturing, marketing, inventory management, shipping, invoicing, accounts receivables and payables, and more. Software as a Service Enterprise Resource Planning (SaaS ERP) supports remote hosting of business IT services. It’s also known as Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (Cloud ERP).

Strategic IT Planning

Strategic IT planning focuses on your organization’s specific needs and how to best use technology to meet them. IT is a strategic capability to be used and integrated into planning and projections with consideration of future IT innovations and business growth. Your vCIO will work with you to determine how technology will help you achieve your business priorities and prepare guidelines and policies that support your vision with the right IT solutions.

Networking: Data and Voice Communications

Data communications refer to the electronic transmission of information for storage and processing, while voice communications refer to systems such as mobile devices and VoIP systems. Your vCIO will help you implement the best communication solutions to keep your organization connected and up and running.

Legacy Application Modernization/Renovation

Legacy application modernization is the process of refactoring, re-purposing, or consolidating legacy software programs to align with a company’s current needs. This enables you to benefit from the advantages of new development without the risk and cost of replacing legacy systems.

Business Intelligence and Analytics for Big Data

Business intelligence, or BI, is a term that refers to a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw and big data (massive amounts of data). Business analytics is the process of exploring and investigating an organization’s data with emphasis on statistical analysis. This is becoming more important for even small businesses today. They are relying on software solutions like Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence) to transform data and create interactive reports to help them analyze data to reach their goals.

Shared Services

Many parts of an organization use the same services and resources. Shared services involve the consolidation of business services and resources used by multiple parts of an organization. For example, with service portfolio management, organizations can define and manage services and resources. By incorporating automation, virtualization, advanced analytics, and other digital technologies into your operations, you can streamline processes. These technologies also may enable you to make better decisions and improve the quality of customer interactions.

By taking advantage of the services a virtual CIO provides, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of a CIO without the added costs. Your vCIO will protect your important data, help you get the most from your technology budget, provide customized reports and recommendations, and ensure you meet the technology challenges of 2018 and beyond.

Will Apple Stop Spying And Give Users More Control?

We all hear the rumors, the buzz, and constant speculation any time there is a hotly-anticipated iOS release hyped at an Apple keynote. We read the online gossip about the features announced and compare past keynotes.

Apple IOS Updates

If you’re reading this, you’ve been there. We have, too. More importantly, we ask the same questions. Will my current iPhone or iPad be supported? Will there be settings to make my iPhone or iPad operate more efficiently, and improve battery life? That’s the ultimate goal for every Apple product user. That, and the glittering unicorn emoji, naturally.

So, let’s dive right into Apple iOS 11.3, shall we?

The release of iOS 11.3 is the third follow-up to the overhaul that was iOS 11 from 2017, and – if Apple is being honest – it’s entirely due to the scandal for which news broke just before Christmas.

Owners of older iPhones are going to love Apple iOS 11.3 because it’s the promised “fix” to the controversial iPhone-slowing process that Apple covertly implanted in our beloved iDevices, intended to slow down the operations of dated models to prevent “sudden shutdown” of the iPhone. (Pssst…Apple…we didn’t believe you!)

Unless you’ve been comatose for the last six months, you’ve heard of Apple’s scandal in admitting it slowed down older phones. There were vague excuses, but it felt like a confirmation to many who joked that it seemed like Apple implanted alarm clocks of sorts that made iDevices slow to a crawl around the 20-month mark, fueling the desire to upgrade the device to the latest version – a well-controlled supply and demand market. Cue Apple’s admission and iDevice owners worldwide felt vindicated, completely ignoring that gnawing feeling of how many devices we feel we’d been tricked into purchasing since the release of the very first iPhone over a decade ago. It wasn’t until after Apple’s offer of battery replacements – at a “discount” – and this release to put control back in the hands of the user that we began to realize that we feel a bit violated.

Looking more closely, Apple offers several features in iOS 11.3, so let’s take a closer look at the highlights of what we get with our digital apology.

  • Animoji: Have you ever wanted to turn yourself into a bearmoji? Available in the Messages app, now users can select the bear, dragon, skull and sullen lion characters to mimic facial movements and include voice recordings.
  • Apple News: Apple News: A new, customizable “For You” section with personalized content, including video.
  • Advanced Mobile Location: An improvement on Location Services, when toggled on this setting automatically shares a user’s location with emergency services when an emergency call is initiated.
  • App Store Updates: Updates impacting user experience, like the ability to sort reviews by Most Recent, Most Helpful, Most Favorable, and Most Critical, have been long awaited. Thanks, Apple, for catching up and giving users what is most helpful! Apple is recognizing that users want more control and customization of their devices and this update, which also includes file size of updates, will make the App Store more useful in general.
  • Security Improvements: Ever a concern, Apple detected cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Mail, Find My iPhone, iCloud Drive, and the Phone and Clock apps and patches for these were included in the 11.3 release.
  • Battery Health: The infamous battery issue has its own setting! Users can get up close and personal with their battery details in Settings, Battery, Battery Health (Beta), and see maximum charge capacity and peak performance capability – and the battery will also indicate if it needs replacing.
    • It’s only when the charge capacity is less than 100% that users will see a message that “performance management” features have been applied (aka, the slowing-down effect) and offering the user the ability to disable this. Users might notice increased operation speed, but Apple warns to expect sudden shutdowns.
    • Note: Disabling this feature is semi-permanent; you cannot turn this feature back on unless a sudden shutdown occurs and then this message reverts.
  • Health Records: iPhone owners can now store personal medical records on the iPhone, including the ability to connect to medical providers and download encrypted records. Have information about allergies, medications, tests, and results, vaccinations, and a plethora of medical details at your fingertips. We expect this feature to continue to evolve.

The Big One:

  • Updated Privacy: Apple is recognizing that their community greatly values their privacy, and is vowing to help do more to safeguard it.

After installation of iOS 11.3, users are greeted with a welcome message going into more detail about its new Data & Privacy feature that states, “Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right.” The good news is that Apple is now trying to be very transparent with regard to what data it collects from users. To be fair, iPhone owners are Apple customers, and with this relationship, a degree of consumer information is expected in a transaction. Is Apple not held responsible for maintaining the security on our iPhones? We, therefore, assume they require tidbits of consumer information but also have ironclad security with which to protect us – fair trade on the smallest scale. Apple now tells users what data it collects and why just inside Apple apps with a small icon that looks like two shaking hands. The irony is that much of this information has been included in the privacy policy offered by Apple for iTunes transactions (over 1,000 words, roughly).

Compatible iDevices – iPhone 5S or newer, iPad mini 2 or later, 6th generation iPod Touch or newer, and the 2018 iPad – will (or will have already) receive automatic prompts to install iOS 11.3, but it can also be manually installed via Settings, General, Software Update. The focus with 11.3 is the iPhone, but iOS doesn’t only run on phones, so the new operating system comes with the goal of overall efficiency and privacy.

We love our iPhones (and iPads, too), and we keep endless information on these tiny pocket computers that run our daily lives. From phone calls to text messages, from email to apps, from appointments to reminders, our iPhones hold the key to our productivity and our connectivity, and we want control over how they function. Apple finally recognizes and concedes (some) control to users with iOS 11.3, and we expect even bigger things to come from this.

Apple, this is the beginning of an even better, stronger relationship!

8 Intruder-Hating Tips For Home Office Security

Your Devices Are A Target For Online Prowlers. At Your Peril Do Not Ignore!

Home Office Security

Be Aware of Your Surroundings – Takes On a Whole New Meaning

When you were a child, your mom or dad reminded you, be aware of your surroundings. They wanted you to avoid getting hurt by a stranger. This sound advice also rings true when using your company’s computer, tablet or cell phone devices at any public Wi-Fi hotspot. Anytime you log onto a non-encrypted hotspot, you increase your device’s vulnerability to data hacking. Also, if you chose not to log on through a work-based VPN connection, you invite easy access to your company’s device. If you travel for business, you practice keeping your devices safe, especially in airports and train stations. But if you can avoid doing sensitive work at public hotspots, you’ve reduced your vulnerability and increased your awareness of your online surroundings.

 Company Security Policies Are For Your Protection

Let’s say you work from home. Or maybe you travel and work remotely. Once you leave the company’s secure environment, your vulnerability increases. The organization is entrusting; you won’t expose them to unwanted malware and a hostile environment they have no control over. It’s for this reason; your company institutes a mandatory security policy. The terms of the policy state when any staff member, works away from the office, they must use the company’s devices. Should your device be compromised, your IT Security department can contain the risk immediately. But using a non-issued device, a friend or spouse has, you’ve exposed your company to a possible cyber-attack. You’ve also left the IT Security team to pick up the pieces which could have prevented. No need to stick your neck out. Follow your company’s security policies and reduce your risk and exposure.

Not Some, But All Systems and Applications Must Stay Up To Date

We know. You hate being reminded. Security managers are updated zealots. But their sage advice is the simplest and easiest step a home office user has at their disposal. When running your updates, remember you are updating your operating system, all applications, and Microsoft Office. The updates are not just for the latest versions. Updates are for your stronger security-related measures. When your computer reminds you to update your system, take those extra minutes and update. Finally, don’t forget your once a week security scans and your once-a-month full system scan. You might be surprised what your system digs up.

You Can Trust Me – I Am Your Network, or Are You?

Let’s say a security application, you’ve never seen, pops-up and prompts you to do a security scan, would you click it on? We hope you’d say no and here’s why. Some applications appear harmless and legitimate, almost friendly and helpful. But underneath they are programmed for sinister activity and why you must stay vigilant and know in advance if an unfamiliar network should be trusted. Granted you will be suspicious of public Wi-Fi hotspots, but at home, that same caution must continue. Downloading an app, your IT Support hasn’t cleared, puts you at great risk. If you’re not sure you logged into the correct network, stop and contact your IT Security Support department right away.

Remove The Cache Sludge From Your Computer

Have you noticed lately, your computer or browser are taking just a little longer to boot-up or respond these days? With virus updates, software patches, surfing the web, emailing, and working from your home computer, you will build up digital muck. For starters, your cache is your catch-all. It doesn’t matter what it is; something is going to drain down into your cache. And it keeps a record of it. So, if you want smooth sailing internet browsing and peak performance, clean out your cache. Why horde piles of digital yuck, for months, in your cache, where malware has been known to hide out? Once you clean out your cache and reload your browser, it rewards you with the updated version of the website you’re visiting. Also, if the site owners keep their security up-to-date, your visit is secure.

These Cookies Are Not Your Friends Nor Are They Tasty

According to Webopedia, “a cookie will contain a string of text that contains information about your browser. To work a cookie does not need to know where you are from; it only needs to remember your browser.” Some Websites use cookies to store more personal information, about you, and you may not know it. You must find out who has data about you. With bad press surrounding social media sites, it’s becoming more important to check your browser for cookies and delete them selectively or delete them entirely.

Still Using Passwords – Multi-Factor Authentication Gives You New Security Powers

In the early years, you were trained how to use passwords to protect your sensitive material. Something easy to remember. But with progress came security breaches. Easy passwords were out. Next password level was using numbers and symbols in the place of vowels in your password. Now passwords are out, and passphrases are in. Here’s how it works. No confusing password with symbols or numbers to remember. What you create is a phrase you will easily picture in your mind, like the address at your best friend’s house. Instead of a password like this: #152@Bobs, you create a passphrase like this: AddressAtBobsPlace. Now you have an easier way to remember and beefed-up security powers to protect your sensitive information.

Will Your Router Pass A Security Examination?

Finally, are you still using the original router password that came in the box? Does anyone else have access to that password? In some home offices, passwords get shared with family and close friends. If you do not remember the last time you changed the router’s password, or who has access to it, the time to replace the password is now. But if that same router has reached 24 months, ask your provider to swap it out and get a new dual-band router. With newer routers come five enhancements. They are faster to respond, data transmission is reliable, the latest security firmware is updated, comes with a warranty, and you receive a new password.

For more Intruder Hating Home Office Security Tips gives Network Essentials a call at {phone} or email us {email} to speak to one of our Home Office Security Specialists

How Much Is Your Medical Data Is Worth?

Believe it or not, your medical record has the potential to be sold for thousands of dollars. And due to the digitization of health records, it’s now more prone to theft.

Medical Technology

As more patient health records have gone digital over the years, they’ve become vulnerable to hackers—and far more valuable than credit-card data or other forms of confidential data.

Why? Because they contain insurance information that poachers can use for fraudulent billing and illegal prescriptions. These thieves can falsify insurance claims and collect checks and obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in free care on someone else’s insurance.

The healthcare industry wasn’t prepared for this, and they are trying to play catch up to secure protected health information (PHI):

“The U.S. has a huge shortage of highly qualified cybersecurity people across all industries,” says Rod Piechowski, a senior director at the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, a Chicago-based nonprofit with more than 50,000 members. “Being late to the game, health care just can’t compete.”

Health IT professionals, although they are in great demand, haven’t been able to play a major role in employer’s’ software procurement decisions. This is unlike banking and the financial industry where their option is regularly solicited before a major IT system is implemented. And until recently cybersecurity wasn’t prioritized in healthcare the way it has been in financial services. The result is that IT professionals had no influence when it came to software security standards for medical care, and now they’re having to oversee systems that are difficult to safeguard.

If your PHI is breached, hackers have the information they need to blackmail you for the rest of your life. That’s because your EHR contains information like conditions you suffer from such as depression, anxiety or other psychological conditions, sexually transmitted diseases, or heart conditions. If released to the public, these might be an embarrassment to you or even keep you from obtaining a particular position.

How Bad Is It?

EHRs (electronic health records) are being used by over 96 percent of critical-care facilities, and 83 percent of all hospitals. While the digitization of health records enables easy access to patients’ information, if not properly safeguarded they’re also available to hackers. This poses a real threat to patient privacy.

In the year 2016, there were 450 data breaches where 27 million EHRs were affected. Of these, 120 came from the outside, while 200 (more than 65%) came from the inside.

In 2017, there were 477 healthcare breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the media, which affected a total of 5.579 million patient records.

With major hospitals and healthcare organizations paying higher fines for lost patient data, the challenges of maintaining EHR security remains a huge concern. And because of this, the benefits of using them must be weighed against the risks of theft and misuse.

Presence Health in Chicago was fined USD475,000 by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) because they didn’t report a 2013 breach in a timely manner. Advocate Health Care had to pay HHS a whopping USD5.5 million for a breach of patient privacy–the most ever by a single entity.

Compounding the issue, now physicians who are frustrated with the bogged down systems try to design their own workarounds to speed up processing of healthcare data. These ad hoc “shadow IT” systems are insecure and rely on unencrypted data and personal emails. It’s only a matter of time before a sophisticated hacker breaks in to steal their data.

How do hackers obtain medical records?

One of the ways they do this is through spoofing where the facility is fooled into thinking that the person accessing the information is legitimate. Plus, Microsoft researchers warn that many types of databases used for electronic medical records are vulnerable to leaking information despite the use of encryption.

Hospitals and healthcare organization use methods like data encryption and the scrambling of PHI (de-identification) to disguise data so hackers can’t read it.  However, the hackers simply steal the data and replace the encryption keys with their own to demand ransoms to unlock the data. This is called ransomware, and it’s very effective against healthcare facilities and hospitals that need ready access to patient data for their everyday operations.

Who are these hackers?

They’re not who you think they are. When we think of hackers, in our mind’s eye they are guys in hoodies working on computers in their parents’ basements. What’s hard to believe is that most attacks and data breaches don’t come from external hackers, but from the inside of an organization, where doctors, nurses or accounting personnel are negligent, abuse the system as disgruntled employees, or steal patient data for financial gain. In 2017, employee error affected 785,281 patient records and insider-wrongdoing affected 893,978.

One Promising Solution

Robert Lord, a former analytics systems designer, joined forces with Nick Culbertson, a former Special Forces operator when they were students at the John Hopkins University of Medicine. They created an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to combat hacking of EHRs. They co-founded a cybersecurity company Protenus, to help the healthcare industry use artificial intelligence to prevent the theft of Protected Health Information and Electronic Health Records.

Lord explains:

“Your EHR contains all of your demographic information–names, historical information of where you live, where you worked, the names and ages of your relatives, financial information like credit cards and bank numbers…The medical record is the most comprehensive record about the identity of a person that exists today. We recognize that EHRs are living documents, so we’ve built an AI that is able to monitor how individuals interact with the EHR and associated systems, building a unique profile of every workforce member’s clinical and administrative workflow.”

The folks at Protenus are working on a solution that can tell the difference between routine access to EHRs or possible illegal attempts to retrieve this data. They do this by detecting unusual patterns and anomalies using AI that are then escalated to security officers. Over time, the solutions get “smarter” and learn exponentially as the customer base grows.

We’re Behind the 8 Ball When It Comes to Protecting EHRs.

Health care has lagged far behind banking and other industries when it comes to implementing security protocols. Until EHR records were mandated by Obamacare, many healthcare providers still used paper, faxes and handwritten charts. And once EHRs were finally implemented, the hackers were already a step ahead, and the medical industry is still scrambling to find ways to protect them.

Cybersecurity experts tell us that the seriousness of this can’t be overstated. The frequency of threats has taken off in the past 10 years as EHR data is increasingly networked between healthcare entities. And as we continue to struggle to secure our EHRs, increasingly savvy thieves are finding more ways to steal them.

Need To Refresh Your Accounting Software?

Here’s Some Up-to-Date Info That Should Be of “Interest”!

Accounting Software

Accounting software is much-needed tool today. Gone are the days of manually writing down copious amounts of figures in heavy, dusty logbooks, or using calculators to add up debits and credits. Our computers do this for us now. Accounting software makes the process of bookkeeping more efficient and accurate.

What else is different than in years past? Today’s newest accounting solutions are now cloud-based, and they provide many advantages.

No more shelling out a large amount of cash to purchase expensive business accounting software. Instead, you can pay for a web-based accounting service via a convenient subscription.

Online accounting services are used via the Internet rather than being installed on your organization’s computers. They allow you to access the information you need through an Internet browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari. You can access the service from anywhere you have an internet connection, and it will always look like the same wherever you use it.

Plus, you won’t have to worry about technology requirements, if you have the right operating system, backing up your accounting data, installing updates or dealing with maintenance issues. You get all this and more handled for you–And all for a convenient monthly or annual fee.

Just like any accounting software, cloud-based accounting services allow you to perform all the accounting tasks your business needs, and they include features you’re familiar with like an online general ledger, invoicing and accounts receivable capabilities, purchase histories, business inventories and much more.

And, because upgrades and data backup are managed by the accounting service vendor, cloud-based accounting services are an attractive option for small businesses.

Although these new solutions are cloud-based, you can still buy desktop accounting software if you wish. But due to their popularity, most small businesses are now using online accounting services. Because of their anywhere availability via the Internet, crunching numbers is now much easier than ever before.

What Do Online the Different Accounting Services Have in Common?

Each solution is different, but they all have the following features in common.

They are available via a subscription. Accounting software has always been expensive and needs to be updated every year. With the online version, you pay for only as many users as you need, and you can pay on a monthly or annual basis. Many offer a free trial that converts when you sign up for a service. They cost anywhere from $5 to $70 a month depending on what you require. You won’t be locked into a contract, and all the upgrades are provided. Another plus is that your data will automatically be backed up to a secure cloud.

They’re easy to navigate. Online accounting services try to make your job less taxing with intuitive, easy-to-navigate platforms where you can easily find the features you want. Toolbars, drop-down lists, fill-in-the-blank fields, buttons and icons, all help you enter the numbers for whatever calculations and financial forms you require.

They use language that you’re familiar with. Although we still refer to terms like credits, debits, and chart of accounts, online accounting solutions only use arcane financial language when absolutely needed. The developers are trying to use every-day language whenever possible. However, although centuries old, double-entry accounting is a process we all need to use, and it’s here to stay, the developers let the “wizards” handle the complex processes behind the scenes.

They provide mobile versions. If you’re on the road, traveling for business meetings, or even need to do a little work when you’re on vacation, you can access your web-based accounting services securely from your mobile devices.

You have the choice of different levels of service. Some of the best cloud-based accounting solutions provide more than one level of service at different prices. This way you can purchase just what you need and nothing more. If you need to switch to a different level, most allow you to do this easily.

You can integrate them with other solutions. As your business grows, you may find that you need to use a variety of cloud-based financial management solutions. In this case, many of the best cloud-based accounting solutions allow you to connect to other services that you may already be using.

Dashboards. Interactive home pages or dashboards will help you keep track of your finances by flagging tasks that need attention and providing visuals like graphs and charts to give you a high-level view of where you stand. They summarize data like income, expenses and cash flow in easy-to-read images, so you and your team can more easily comprehend data and can make decisions about what to do.

Which Solution is the Best for Your Business?

So, how do you decide which online accounting solution is best for your small business? You might not be able to find a perfect match, but because they are flexible and provided on a monthly basis, you can find the best one for you and tweak it along the way.

As mentioned, many offer a free trial, so you can “road test” them. Give them a try and consider the following questions when you do:

  • Can you import your existing data?
  • Are the tasks you perform most often supported? (recordkeeping, billing, purchasing, etc.)
  • Do you like the interface? Is it easy to navigate?
  • Will it support the number of users you need?
  • Are there any restrictions on actions you’ll need to take?
  • Is it customizable?
  • Is it scalable?
  • What is the quality of the mobile application?
  • Are add-ons supported?
  • Do they provide a help desk or support solutions?
  • Is the subscription fee something that your budget will allow?

While you’re at it, we did some homework for you. Below are some of the top online accounting services for small businesses.

Consider these and take advantage of the free trials they offer. Don’t worry if these might not work for you five years from now. Assess them based on your needs for the upcoming year.

Remember, you aren’t purchasing the product. Instead, you’re signing up for a subscription that you can change or upgrade/downgrade as you need. In other words, you aren’t stuck with these like you are with regular accounting software programs.

No matter which online accounting solution you choose, you’ll have peace of mind because you won’t have to worry about security. Online accounting services have stringent security requirements to ensure that your data is safely protected from hackers and any kind of loss. Even if your physical office is destroyed, or an employee accidentally deletes information, your online accounting service will be able to retrieve your data for you.

Hey You – STOP Giving Your Time Away For Free!

Technology has made it possible for you to get more done in less time. Are efficiency and productivity always a good thing?

Freelancer

Technology and telecommute: Two fabulous words that start with the same letter, and one is very much dependent on the other. The “tele” in “telecommute” certainly isn’t short for “telepathy” – though imagine how telepathy would impact professional relationships! On second thought, don’t.

The professional world changes and evolves, of that, there is no question. No longer is physical presence a requirement for staff, as more organizations migrate to a distributed workforce. What has become clear in the last decade is the location is no longer as important as the output. The focus on productivity is essentially a focus on the individual and catering to the needs of the one for the benefit of the whole. This individual-centric mentality seems counterproductive, but it’s quite the opposite. It would be impossible to cater one office building or workplace to the needs of many individuals for whom environmental factors differ. One requires silence for concentration, while another works better with loud music playing. Does one wear headphones? This is one option, but if this method stifles even one professional, the sacrifice may not justify the means.

One practice that more Americans are embracing is freelancing: individuals contract themselves with a person or organization to offer their time, skills and expertise in exchange for money. The person remains an independent contractor, and the organization is released from any legal obligations, like payroll taxes or insurance benefits. This is a cost-effective way for a business to meet their needs without taking on the full responsibility of onboarding.

There are estimates that more than a third of Americans participate in independent contract agreements. In fact, according to the Internal Revenue Service, over 10 million Americans rely on freelancing for more than half of their total income stream. That translates into more than 10 million Americans essentially being their own brand, running their own organization, and being a one-person operation while managing all sales, marketing, and accounting tasks. By the way, “accounting” also means handling their own payroll and other practices a business would otherwise task a Human Resources department to oversee. These freelancers operate like sole proprietors and CEOs of a business and take on great responsibilities to manage their time efficiently.

In juggling these processes, are freelancers losing time due to inefficiency? Lost time directly results in lost earnings. The best thing a freelancer can do to protect their time is finding the right combination of technology to help maximize productivity and minimize downtime. The great news is, with the incredible technological advancements in recent years, there is a huge variety of productivity apps available for this exact purpose.

Running your own business can be time-consuming, and you don’t have time to waste! Here are apps to help.

Apps to Get Paid

You have a multitude of options for processing payments now. From to to to, small business owners have a variety of apps catering to simplified payment processes, whether the purpose is sending or accepting a payment.

  • Due is a free problem solver when it comes to the need to process payments online. With a simple user interface, Due boasts encryption for secure data and transactions.
  • You’ve seen Square, the little white square box that plugs into a tablet or smartphone and uses a data connection to process a transaction. Square is limited to the transaction process, but they also offer Square Register for a point-of-sale system.
  • Start a Wave! Wave is like an all-in-one solution for tracking sales and expenses, processing payments, keeping track of payroll and customer invoices, you name it. The app is free to download, but like with any other transaction-based solution, there are fees for credit card processing.
  • FreshBooks has a name much like its well-known competitor but approaches payment processing with a “Fresh” outlook. Freshbooks acts much like a basic accounting platform with built-in functionality for transactions, but the invoicing and customizable reporting are a nice feature, too.

Apps to Get Organized

If only one app could do it all for you: email, scheduling meetings, maintaining files, the list goes on. Actually, the way you need to look at an app isn’t if the app can do it all for you, but if it can do it well! Sometimes, all you need is a little integration – and more apps are recognizing this need.

  • Basecamp has long been an industry darling for businesses: Collaborating, setting up projects, connecting team members, and offering a centralized location to chat about the projects but also a one-on-one privatized chat option for less public matters. Email communication and built-in customizable notifications are a great feature, too!
  • Slack is a far more economical option than Basecamp, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. High on communication and organization, Slack is what most newer platforms were designed after. Slack is idolized by techies and creatives alike, but for freelancers and small business owners that have another focus, Slack may not be the best solution.
  • Asana is right there with Slack, offering the lower entry price point for a collaborative option, and even integrates with Slack if there is ever the need for both.

Apps for Communication

We already mentioned Basecamp and Slack, which offer exemplary communication tools in a collaborative workspace, but there are other apps to increase productivity with a focus on communication for freelancers and small business owners.

  • For small teams or large groups, Fuze offers real-time communications with voice, messaging, and perhaps its strongest offering, high-definition video conferencing.
  • The famous G Suite: The go-to suite of apps for productivity for professionals everywhere. From email to document storage, from calendars to shared documents, and integrated with Hangouts, the video conferencing solution, Google’s G Suite has earned its reputation. With the lowest entry price point around, seamless integration with Microsoft’s Office 365, and the simple user interface everyone has already been using for years now, what else is there to say?

Apps for Automation

Find ways to automate processes and require less of your hands-on attention.

  • If you use Gmail or Outlook for email and scheduling meetings, to is a fantastic free solution for arranging meetings in a single email. No more back-and-forth emails on what times work on which days – install the extension and grant access to your calendar!
  • Microsoft Flow is an amazing automation tool that lets a user automate processes using connectors for integrated apps. Establish your parameters, and voila!
  • Zapier is a simplified Microsoft Flow and has a cult following that sings its praises. Zapier follows much of the same practices as Microsoft Flow, so check both out and see which works better for your needs.

Who doesn’t love a little extra help? There’s always room for more when you’re running the show on your own. While the ideal answer is to clone yourself, the reality is there’s only one you. Try a few of the apps here to give yourself a hand. Spend less time on the workflow and more time on the work you’re getting paid for – in billable hours!

The Top 12 Time Management Apps and Tools

Today’s app market offers the full range of apps for personal use and for work. Everyone seems to be trying to complete household chores and tasks at work with the highest level of efficiency.

Time Management Apps

Time has become a valuable commodity that we never have enough of. In response to these needs, developers are coming up with all-new and really cool apps that have the features you’re looking for. You can get to-do list apps, reminder apps, and apps for file storage or note-taking. With the right apps on your phone or computer, you can improve your daily performance and get everything completed much faster. This leaves you plenty of time for relaxing and watching a great movie on Netflix. Below, we reveal our top 12 time management apps.

One: Focus booster

Feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to get done today? There’s an app for that. It’s called Focus Booster and it was designed based on the Pomodoro Technique. Using this technique, you can complete more chores each day and it also helps relieve the stress you may feel due to your busy schedule. Helps eliminate procrastination.

Two: Remember the Milk

With so much information coming at us each day, it’s easy to forget the small things like stopping by the dry cleaners. Remember the Milk is compatible with your computer, Outlook, Gmail and mobile devices. Whether you just need to remember a grocery list or you want to share tasks with your team, this is an easy-to-use app that will help you avoid forgetting something important. It’s pretty straightforward to use. Simply enter a task, due date, priority and other pertinent information, then you’re all set. You can even break tasks down into sub-tasks and assign them to other people. It syncs with all your devices.

Three: Rescue Time

Are you using your time well each day or running around in circles? Rescue Time runs in the background, tracking how much time you spend on certain tasks each day. You’ll get a detailed report on all your daily activities. This lets you see where you could be wasting precious time each day. It’s available for smartphones and computers.

Four: Toggl

This unique timer app is advertised as so easy to use that you’ll actually use it. It works with individuals and teams. This time tracker is often more accurate than time sheets and other software of this type. It enables employees across many different industries to become more productive. Get accurate records of time spent on any project.

Five: Evernote

Evernote is a popular productivity app that has been around for a few years. It was originally used by college students for note-taking in class. The developers have continued to add unique features so that today you can capture, organize and share notes. It allows you to clip pages from the web and everything can be stored in one place. Evernote has added other products to its line including Evernote Business with Spaces. This program works about the same but allows a team to collect, store and share ideas. Create notes, add tables and attachments, use handwritten notes, and even add audio recordings.

Six: Dropbox

An old favorite but still the most reliable program for saving, editing and sending large files. This app is free and most people already know how it works so there’s less of a learning curve. Dropbox is available for laptops, mobile devices, iPad and other devices, so you can access and share files whenever and wherever you need to.

Seven: Mind42

This mind mapping tool has become a favorite of users and is considered one of the best on the market. It is browser-based so there’s nothing to download. This is a great productivity app that helps you get organized by showing you a diagram of what you need to be focused on. You can brainstorm, create a to-do list, organize things and share your map with others.

Eight: SyncBackFree

From 2BrightSparks, SyncBackFree is a great little tool for backing up and copying files in Windows. The app is truly free, plus it’s ad-free. There’s no registration or payment required. The app also claims that they do not collect demographic info about its users. You can schedule backups to occur at regular intervals. They also offer a SyncBackPro and SyncBankSE for enterprise clients. Files can be copied in both directions. Unicode is enabled for non-English file names.

Nine: Pocket

We all get side-tracked while surfing the web. You might be searching for information about a new project and find photos or news stories you’d like to read. Pocket gives you a place to store these items until you have time to go back and check them out. The app is available for iOS, Android and for computers and mobile devices. You can store any type of content and the app works with or without an internet connection.

Ten: MyLifeOrganized

This task management app helps users target the most important tasks. It automatically creates your to-do list and highlights those items that require immediate attention. Track your progress, focus on specific goals and achieve your objectives with MyLifeOrganized. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to rearrange tasks in list form or as a tree. This app can be used at work, at home or for special events like a wedding, business trip, or party. Simply enter tasks and due dates, along with a few other pieces of information and MLO automatically generates a smart list of all the actions you need to complete.

Eleven: Launchy

Launch all your files, folders and documents with this simple app. You don’t need to go to the start menu, desktop or file manager to open your favorite programs. Launchy has been named the best application launcher by major publications.

Twelve: Focus@Will

Developers of Focus@Will claim that users can increase their productivity by up to 400 percent. This is the perfect solution for those who get distracted easily while studying or working. The app combines music with neuroscience to boost productivity. Those with a touch of ADHD will find this app very helpful.

Must-Know SEO: Info Secrets to Maximizing Your Website’s Google Search Ranking

 

Google is the number-one search engine. It’s the one people go to when they have a question they need to be answered or are looking for a business to serve their particular needs. Google, like the terms Kleenex and Clorox, has become part of our daily vernacular. When you search for something online, you’re “Googling” it.

What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

It’s the multi-discipline process of optimizing a website to rank high in organic search results.

Organic search results are those you don’t pay for.

Typically, when people search for companies or information on Google, the first few results they get are those that a business has paid for. If they say “Sponsored” or “Ad” that means someone has paid for them to be ranked at the top.

If you don’t pay for an ad, you must practice good SEO to be listed near the top of a Google search.

What constitutes good SEO?

This is difficult to pin down because It’s often-changing and always updating. Google updates their algorithms and the way that they rate and rank content hundreds of times a year. It’s impossible to keep track of every single change. However, practicing good SEO strategies, in general, will result in better search rankings.

Although it’s easy to understand, SEO is challenging to execute effectively. Here’s some information that should help.

On-Page Optimization

Optimize your entire website as a whole:

  • Increase the page speed and load times. Google will penalize your website if it loads slowly. Keep this in mind when purchasing web hosting. Make sure they have plenty of uptime, and you have enough bandwidth. If you don’t, Google will penalize you.
  • Ensure your site can be found using mobile devices. More people browse via mobile today than they do with desktop computers. Take this into account with every element of your website’s design. From your home page to your landing pages, to your contact page–Everything must be optimized for mobile searches. If your website looks great for desktop but isn’t accessible for mobile use, Google will penalize you in your search rankings.
  • Use HTTPS in your URL even if you’re not selling anything. Just having a secure website immediately gives you a boost in Google search rankings.
  • Include Social Sharing Links. Pick the social networks that are most relevant to your audience, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Use the icons for the links on your webpage so people can find you easily and share your content. The more people share your content, the more Google finds you relevant, and the higher they will rank your business in their search results.
  • Use tools like Woorank, Yoast to test your overall website performance. These and other tools like them will scrub your page much like Google will, and tell you what your results are based on your current level of search optimization. If there are things you need to improve, these tools will let you know what they are, so you can up your search ranking.

Know your keywords and how to use them:

  • Make a list of topics relevant to your business and your intended audience. These are called Head Terms–words that are used in your industry or line of business.
  • Get specific and use Long-Tail Keywords. Think of this as the problem you want your customers to bring to you that you can solve. If you’re an attorney, this might be, “How can I save money on a divorce?” or “How do I fight a traffic ticket?” etc.
  • Do your own search for other keywords and observe user intent. See what problems people are having and which ones you can solve. The more you can solve, the better chances you’ll be a credible authority in their eyes and Google’s.
  • Scope out the competitor’s keywords. There are some paid tools you can use to do this. Or, do this on your own by visiting your competition’s website and looking at what they’re promoting, what media they use, the headlines they use, and the phrasing they publish. By doing a search for your competition, you can also see where they rank.
  • Use your keywords within the first 100 words of any of your web pages, including blog posts and videos. The first 100 words are used most heavily when Google scrubs information from your webpage. This is where you want to include your specific long-tail keywords.
  • Don’t keyword-stuff. You want to use your Long-Tail Keywords throughout the rest of your web pages, but don’t overdo it. Keep your language natural-sounding. If you keyword-stuff, Google will penalize you.

Use headers correctly:

  • H1 headers are for article or page titles. These are most important for SEO because this tells Google what your page is about. This is where you want to use those well-constructed Long-Tail Keywords.
  • H2 headers are for your sections. You should use Long-Tail Keywords here as well but be creative with your phrasing. Don’t repeat phrases over and over.
  • Include your keywords here but be creative with phrasing

Label your images correctly:

  • Include your keywords in your image file names. These will be your shorter keywords and Head Terms–terms that are broad in scope.
  • Include your keywords in your image alt text. Include your specific Long-Tail terms here as well.

Test it out.

The Right Content

Write for your audience:

  • Think of questions that your target audience would ask. Think of what people will be searching for. Think of the problems that they are looking to you to resolve.
  • Let your keywords be your guide. Phrase them as a question, then write the authoritative answer.

Go the distance whenever you can:

  • Word count matters. Aim for at least 1,000 words as often as possible. This may not always be possible for things like video descriptions or info-graphics. Don’t worry. Do the best you can.
  • Don’t sacrifice quality for word count. If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, don’t just write a bunch of needless content. Google will pick this up and penalize you. Google wants quality content.
  • Some industries will need more quality content to compete online. If there’s a lot of competition for your service or product, you’ll need to step up your game to differentiate yourself from the others. You’ll need to come up with content that is better and more creative than what your competitors are posting.

Mix it up and keep it fresh:

  • Share more than just written articles. The broader your library, the more people you will appeal to. Blog posts are great but don’t neglect other options.

Repurpose your best old content:

  • Rework your old content that performed well into a new format like an infographic, video, e-book, and or blog. Take an e-book that was popular and write an article about it. Take an article and make a video from it, etc.

Don’t forget your Meta Descriptions:

  • Meta descriptions are the “flavor text” that shows beneath the link in a search result.
  • Google says that meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor. However, the text that shows in SERPs can compel people to select your search result. If it gives you an edge, why not use it.
  • Write conversationally and aim to catch the viewer’s attention. Use 300 words max for your meta descriptions.
  • Use them on every page of your website.
  • Try plugins like Yoast if you are using WordPress for assistance writing great meta descriptions. It will rank the meta description and tell you whether or not it will be a positive influence.

Links and How to Use Them

Internal Linking:

  • Link to other pages, articles, or media within your own site. If you are the authority in your area of expertise, one article you write will surely have relevance to others on your site.
  • Try to get 2-3 internal links per page. This gives people a reason to stay on your site. It will give them a reason to stay on your page and click thru to other pages. This is important for good ranking results.

External Linking:

  • Link to authoritative, quality pages outside your website that have relevant information. Use links to news articles, Wikipedia, or other well-known websites. Be selective. Don’t link to blogs. Remember, anything you link to reflects the quality of your website. If you link to reputable sources, Google will consider your site reputable as well.
  • Be selective as the links you choose as this will reflect on the quality of your site.

Backlinks

  • These are the “Holy Grail” of links, and the most difficult to obtain. Backlinks are where you link to an outside page, and they link back to you. Here are some of the things you can try to get quality backlinks:
  • Write case studies on the products or services you use, especially if you’ve had spectacular results. Share these with your vendors and partners.
  • Write reviews for the companies and products you would recommend to others.
  • Build genuine relationships online and off.
  • Become a resource for the media.
  • Volunteer to speak to groups in your area.

How to Gain an Edge

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews:

  • Positive user reviews influence SEO ranking. Google Business and Yelp are the most popular and widely used.
  • Search for your business type in your location to see what other review sites are used by your target audience. Some of these might include Nextdoor, Angie’s List or TripAdvisor.
  • It’s okay to ask happy customers to leave a positive review, but don’t overdo it.

Location, Location, Location Reviews (and other ways to be relevant):

  • Don’t forget to include your location in your keywords if you serve local clients. If people are searching for businesses like yours in your location, Google will be able to find you and post your information in their search. Even if the person doesn’t include your city in their search, Google knows where they are and can find you to answer their query.
  • Consider other ways to signify that your information is relevant and current. Include the year in your title when relevant. If you’re talking about products, consider using a title like “The 20 Best Products in 2018.” People will see your post as relevant, and Google will see that your posts are current and give you a better ranking.

Be the Expert in One Area:

  • If you find a keyword that gets lots of search action without a lot of competition go deep with your strategy. Be the authority on it and use your internal links to your advantage. When doing your research on your keywords, if you find one that gets a lot of search activity, but there’s not much competition, use those keywords and write in-depth on the subject. You’ll rise the top of Google searches very quickly.

Optimize for Mobile:

  • This is worth repeating because the percentage of non-desktop searching is going to continue to increase. If your site isn’t easy to navigate on mobile devices, you’ll lose business.

Optimize for Voice Search:

  • The #1 thing that will set websites apart in the future is the ability to have your web properties appear in voice searches. We are using more Artificial Intelligence functions on our computer devices like Siri and Cortana.
  • Think of the questions people will ask via voice search and answer them. Again, if you serve local customers or businesses, make sure that you list your location in your keywords.

Use These Great SEO Tools:

  • The Google Search Console provides great insight into how your site is performing in Google searches. You do have to take some steps to enable access, but it’s very user-friendly. You can see which keyword searches on Google were used most often that lead to your site, and what your click-thru rate was of these listings. It will tell you what people are searching for, when your site came up in their search and how often they are clicking on your link as opposed to others. (It’s free)
  • SpyFu spies on your competitors. Use this to see what keywords they are using and how well their site performs.
  • SEMrush provides valuable insight into the world of search. It will show your competitors’ best keywords, help you find competitors you didn’t know about, and reveal how much money your competitors are spending on search advertising. It’s one of the best resources for this.

Utilize Great Resources:

  • Neil Patel (neilpatel.com) provides great daily information on SEO and search in general.
  • MOZ (moz.com) has a wealth of great information for businesses that want more from their SEO.
  • Search Engine Journal (searchenginejournal.com) is loaded with great free SEO resources.

Advanced SEO

Schema.org:

  • Schema –The semantic web, is the next frontier for SEO. Schema.org defines the best-used terms to use for keywords. This is a definite list of codes that should be used for best practices. If Google sees you using old codes, this will hurt your ranking.
  • Rankings reviews, ratings, product descriptions, and schedules are now starting to influence rankings.
  • Speak with your website developer or SEO company to ensure schema.org elements are part of your website.

Rich Snippets:

  • Rich Snippets are search results that include ratings, reviews, images, video content, and more.
  • They stand out from all other search results because the search engine has more data about the site. It uses images, ratings, and reviews that can be pulled into the search results.
  • Setup using structured data found in the Google Search Console.

People Also Ask:

  • This is often featured with popular search terms. If Google gets the same requests over and over again, they post additional sites with information. The more expert advice you provide for frequently asked questions, and your content answers these very specifically, Google will consider adding your site you to their “People Also Ask” prompt. So, again, think of the questions most people will ask about your product or service and answer these in your website content.
  • Searches can get immediate answers here and may never visit your site.
  • It reinforces the need to ensure your website and content solves people’s problems, answers, questions, and offers advice.

Social Media:

  • Social media does play a role in SEO, and social content will affect your ranking.
  • The more shares or “social indicators” found, the more relevant Google will consider your content. When someone shares an article from your website, this is called a social indicator. This tells Google where the poster found this information and how many times it’s been shared. The more you get shares, the more Google will find your website valid and increase your rankings.
  • Reviews from social sites matter.
  • Social media channels are their own search engines.
  • Extended reading: “Social is the New SEO” by Neil Patel. This will tell you more about SEO and how important it is in Google rankings.

In Conclusion

The Most Important “Take Aways”

  • The days of a long list of your services are over. Optimize your page and your content for today’s audience.
  • Solve people’s challenges
  • Answer their questions. Use keywords intelligently and accurately, so you’re answering people’s question.
  • Become a valuable resource online and off.
  • Become more social.
  • Find a great web marketer who can help.

Questions? Send an email to us!

From Typo to Top Spot, Why Yoast Rules SEO

Is “Yoast” a typo? Are we raising a “toast” and just missed the “t” and hit the “y” key? Or is there a deeper meaning behind the name of the SEO superstar?

Yoast SEO

WordPress users love WordPress. It’s an incredibly straightforward platform with a simple user interface, which makes sense given its humble beginnings as a blogging application. Bloggers have used the free solution since 2003, enjoying the flexible and friendly features. Though it did begin as a blogging platform, its evolution into a content management system (CMS) was a natural progression. It’s estimated that as much as half of major global brands have websites run on WordPress. If you’re keeping count, that’s a staggering number of websites.

WordPress offers a plugin architecture for users that encourage plugins to extend features and functionalities of WordPress, catering to the needs of the user. At last estimate – though still in 2018 – there are over 50,000 plugins available for WordPress users, each offering customized functions and features to enable tailored experiences for specific needs. In fact, WordPress highlights available plugins for users, complete with a rating system and biographical details – similar to a product offering on Amazon!

Available plugins range from contact forms to an importer that allows users to bring in blog content from other blogs. Others include a WooCommerce plugin for e-commerce sites, and an on-page Google Analytics plugin for users to track site metrics. The second most popular plugin on the WordPress plugin dashboard is Yoast SEO, with more than 5 million active installations and a 5-star user rating by nearly 20,000 users. We were curious about the most popular plugin and had to know. Yoast SEO falls just behind a plugin called Contact Form 7, with the same number of active installations (but a lower rating by only 1,500 users in comparison).

What is Yoast SEO? Was someone thinking of toast and made a typographical error? The keys are right next to each other on the keyboard – is that what happened? Nope! The founder of Yoast SEO, Joost de Valk, pronounces his first name “Yoast” – it’s as simple as that! The firm that developed Yoast SEO is based in the Netherlands, by a team that is dedicated to its users and the community at large. Yoast SEO creators believe in open source software, where the code is readily available to anyone that wants to modify the code for customization.

Yoast SEO is an amazing tool that WordPress users add as a plugin to optimize their content for better search engine rankings. The Yoast SEO plugin helps users by making sure the right keywords are included in their content if they want to tag that content with those keywords, as well as reviewing word count and other elements that are important to better search ranking. The results of a search are based on Google’s infamous algorithm that determines the position a page ranks in search results returned in Google. The Googlebot crawls billions (and billions!) of pages across the Internet to index and adds to its search results. What are some of the factors that Google takes into account for ranking web content in search results?

Word Count

Word count is one of the most important content factors since Google – the king of search engines – takes length into consideration when the Googlebot crawls pages to index. The number of words in a page is a good indicator of the quality of content – sometimes. A thousand words of gibberish or just words strung together with zero relativity are always possible, which is why this isn’t the only factor Google relies on for a page’s search position.

Keywords

Keywords are equally important for more reasons than just Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. When the Googlebot is crawling through those billions of web pages, the byproduct is the indexing of the words it finds and their locations on a web page. This process also reviews all the “hidden” words in content, like the tags used and various content attributes within the code, like alt text and title tags, and all of these are used to relate the keywords to the content, a stronger indication of content quality than word count, but together with word count keywords boost a search engine result position.

Title and URL

A web page’s title is the first thing a user sees when looking at search results in a browser. This is not necessarily the title that is shown on a web page as the headline announcing the page content. This title is what is in the code of the page and shows on the browser tab. This title should relate to page keywords and content to help boost a search position. If your primary keyword is in your title, it adds credibility to – or, optimizes – your content and boosts your search position and ranking. The title is sometimes also in the URL of a web page, but it can be slightly different. So long as the primary keyword is still present, any slight alteration won’t negatively impact your position.

Description Snippets

Why do snippets matter? Snippets show the description of your page content in search results, which Google shortens as it needs to based on screen space or other factors. The bottom line with descriptions and snippets is to include critical keywords, place them early in the descriptions.

Traffic volume

Google works very hard to ensure the user’s search experience and maintain impeccable quality standards. This much is clear given Google’s position as King of Search. When Google serves search results, all of the above factors work to improve the overall search experience. The cogs in the machine are always turning and working to make sure that not only the user gets the best search results based on its determination that the content is relevant to the user’s search query, but also that when users click links to pages, Google is driving quality traffic to sites.

Now you’re thinking, how does Yoast SEO use all of this information and help me with my content? Yoast SEO has a plethora of built-in features that optimize your content:

  • Snippet Preview
    • This handy little feature shows users how their snippet will look in search results in desktop, mobile, and even social media.
  • Integration with Google Search Console
    • Users can see exactly how to expect site and pages to perform in search engines, presenting the opportunity to fix errors before they affect search traffic
  • Readability
    • This is a great feature that scores your content based on readability factors. Users create the content and tend to have difficulty seeing an outsider’s perspective. This score helps users better understand if sentences are too long, or if too many sentences start with the same word or phrases.
  • Frequent Updates
    • The Yoast SEO plugin is often updated to keep up with Google’s algorithmic updates, to help users keep content optimized using current requirements and best practices.

Do you have the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress? There are paid and free versions, and it’s absolutely worth it to get the free version! Instructions are simple:

  • Within WordPress, visit “Plugins” and “Add New”
  • Search for “Yoast SEO”
  • Activate Yoast from your Plugins page
  • A prompt will ask you to start the configuration wizard
  • Follow the wizard, and you’re done!

Familiarizing yourself with the Yoast SEO plugin will be even more simple after reading this, and you’ll start to notice your search rankings improve quickly, within 30 days of starting this process. Maintaining quality content will automatically help boost ranking, but Yoast SEO is the go-to tool for further optimizing and reviewing the factors that will impact search results most.