8 Changes Your Website Needs to Be GDPR Compliant

You’ve heard a lot of talk about GDPR, but what exactly is it and how is it going to affect you and your business? First, let’s do a quick throwback to the 90s (why hello dial-up internet access!) when the Data Protection Directive (DPD) was released. Back when the internet was essentially the wild west, the DPD was the first set of rules ever written for the internet. Since then, the internet has completely transformed in ways we never could have predicted. This meant that a new set of regulations had to be made.

On May 25th, 2018, a new set of rules AKA the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), went into effect. The new regulations spell out specific rights that individuals have in regards to whether or not they’d like to relinquish the rights to their data. Because some of these changes directly affect aspects of digital marketing compliance, we want to make sure you’re up to date on how to become GDPR compliant. If your business holds, collects, or uses customer data, we highly recommend doing an audit of your processes. In order to stay on the right side of the law and avoid some hefty fines, check out our steps to ensure that your website is GDPR compliant.

1. Forms Must Be Active Opt-In

Previously, having a pre-checked form wasn’t considered bad practice. Under the GDPR, forms that ask users to subscribe to newsletters or indicate their contact preference now have to default to being un-checked, otherwise it’s considered implied consent.

2. Separate Opt-In Checks


Many sites used to bundle user consent into a single multitasking checkbox. Now, you have to have separate checkboxes to consent or opt-in to different things, for example, you need a checkbox where users can consent to data use and another for agreeing to terms and conditions.

3. Make Sure Your Cookies Are Compliant


Notifying a user that there are cookies on the site that may collect their data is no longer enough, you must make it possible for users to both accept or reject cookies. Also, even after they’ve opted-in, users must always have the option to opt-out of cookies at any time.

“Notifying a user that there are cookies on the site that may collect their data is no longer enough.”

4. Remove Personal Information

After users make an online purchase, are you storing their information in your database indefinitely? The GDPR isn’t explicit about how long exactly you can store user data, rather they require a company be transparent about how long they plan to store the data. This means you’ll have to modify your web processes to remove individual data within a reasonable amount of time and make this time period known to your users.

5. Granular Opt-in Options


You must provide your users with the power to consent separately for different processes. This means that users shouldn’t just have one box to tick for opting-in to communication, instead they should have the option to only opt-in to the specific type of communication they wish to receive.

6. Easy to Withdraw Submissions or Opt-Out


Individuals should always have the option to opt-out and know that they always have the right to withdraw their consent at any time. This means they should have the right to unsubscribe to certain streams of communication or easily change the frequency at which they receive communications from your company.

7. Opt-Ins For Each Named Party


Before, it was common practice to bundle your third party consent in one checkbox, now each named party needs to be listed and users have to have the right to consent to each separately.

8. Privacy Notice and Terms & Conditions

You need to update your website’s privacy notice to clearly state how a users data may be collected and used and which applications you’re using to track their interactions. You will also need to update your current Terms & Conditions page to reflect the GDPR verbiage. This must include how long you’ll retain their information on your website and your site database.

Make sure your website GDPR compliant so you stay on the right side of the law and avoid any fines. If you have any questions, please shoot us an email at info@atakinteractive.com. We’re here to help! 

11 Features Every Ecommerce Site Needs in 2018

There’s nothing worse than wanting to purchase something online and hitting an ecommerce site that is confusing, slow, or flat out doesn’t work. At ATAK, we’ve seen our fair share of frustrating ecommerce sites, but usually the fixes are really simple. If you’re kicking off your own ecommerce website, we can help you avoid some common mistakes. Here are the 12 most obvious features your 2018 ecommerce site absolutely needs.

1. Easy to Use

The last thing your customers want is a stressful shopping experience. Remove all remnants of anxiety or confusion by providing them with a website that has clear and consistent messaging, easy to find customer reviews, and a relevant FAQ section. Also, take a hard look at every link and piece of copy and take out anything that isn’t necessary.

2. High Quality Photos and Video

First impressions are important, don’t let the first encounter a potential customer has with one of your products be a grainy, underlit image. You want them to see your products in the best possible light so invest in some high quality images for your website and social media channels.  

3. Be Mobile and Browser Friendly

Did you know if Google finds your site “mobile unfriendly” your business will not come up in search results when a user is searching from their phone? Did you also know 62% of mobile users have made a purchase from their mobile devices in the last 6 months? Don’t miss out on a huge chunk of potential customers. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Beyond that, go through the purchasing funnel on a few different phones and web browsers to catch any bugs or confusing prompts. Different mobile operating systems can show your website in slightly different ways so be sure to test it out on a few devices.

4. Special Offers

If users hit your website with a high intent to purchase, having a special offer prominently displayed can really clinch the sale. To create a special offer that entices your customers but doesn’t gouge your bottom line, first determine your cost of acquisition for each new customer and use that as a guide to set the parameters for special offers.

5. Related Items

Not every click is going to lead a customer to the exact right product. Including a “related items” section can keep customers on the site for longer and increase the chance that they find what they’re looking for. Many brands are taking this type of feature a step further and adding a “people who bought this also bought” or “also in this collection” tool to help users find more accurate accessories to match.

6. Social Profiles and UGC

Potential customers can get the best sense of your product by seeing it in the wild. Having your social profiles linked helps customers see your products in a more natural setting. Including UGC submissions, or content actual customers have submitted or posted online, allows users to get an idea of the lifestyle your product denotes.

7. Favorites or Wishlists

Not every person who hits your site is ready to purchase your awesome products right away. Make sure you make it really simple for potential customers to save their preferred items for later.

8. Security Features

Keep your customer’s information safe from potential cybercriminals. Update your website’s security features to include an SSL certificate, two-factor authentication, and a clear privacy policy link in the footer. (If you have any questions on how to set up these security features for your website, email us at info@atakinteractive.com and we can help you.)  

9. Advanced payment options

With the availability of Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Amazon Pay, and PayPal, your users are used to quick, hassle-free payments. Make sure to make entering and submitting payment as simple as possible, and again, have your team go through the purchasing funnel so you know exactly how easy it is.

10. Contact Page and Ticketing System

Have a contact page with multiple ways to get in touch– include your email address, phone number, and an online form so your customers know you’re never more than a click or call away.

11. Return policy

Create a really seamless experience for your customers by having a crystal clear, hassle-free return policy. This way, even if the item wasn’t perfect for them, you’ll leave a positive impression in their mind and ensure that they’ll be back for more.

With these 11 ecommerce features, you’re ready to create an enjoyable and safe online shopping experience for your customers.

6 SEO Mistakes You’re Probably Making (And How to Fix Them)

Sure, it’s easy to nod along whenever your colleagues mention SEO, but sometimes all the jargon goes right over your head. Ranking. Organic. Keyword Density. Trust us, you’re not alone. But don’t let it intimidate you. As complicated as SEO can be, there are still very simple steps you can implement today that will ensure your content is up to industry SEO standards.


First off, what is SEO really, and why does it matter? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your online content so that it’s more likely a search engine, like Google or Bing, serves your link as the top result when users search a keyword. It’s important that your content pages are optimized because it will help increase site traffic which in turn can increase leads and transactions.


Well if SEO is so important, everyone’s probably pretty great at it, right? Turns out, even some of the best website out there make these seven common SEO mistakes:

 

1. Having Messy URLs

Keep your URLs as clean and concise as possible to help improve SEO rankings and user experience. Some blog visual editors, like WordPress, automatically pull in the title or first line of the blog post into the URL field. Often times, this is a bit too long and chock full of grammatical articles, like “the” or “an”. Always take the time to shorten these URLs until they simply contain pertinent words. For example, if your article title is “32 Reasons Why Lemurs Are Super Awesome”, you can tailor your URL down to “/awesome-lemurs” or “/reasons-lemurs-awesome”.

2. Choosing Irrelevant Keywords

Without the correct keywords, there’s almost no chance new users are going to come across your amazing content. Make sure to do your keyword research and pinpoint what commonly searched terms pertain to your company, then you can create content relative to these key terms.

3. Publishing Content That Isn’t Original

Ensure that all the content you publish is original and that you’re putting out content at a consistent rate. Publishing borrowed content can get your site marked as spam or downgrade your search results.

4. Forgetting to Include Title Tags and Meta Tags

It’s easy to overlook this small step but it can actually be the difference between a new user clicking or not. When you don’t fill out the Title Tag and Meta Tag fields, your content link will appear without context when it appears on a search page. Finally, take the extra time to make sure your titles and meta tags are clear and straightforward, cute and witty is great but readable is best.

5. Over-Stuffing Keywords

Yes, we know, keyword stuffing used to be the sure fire way to improve your SEO rankings, well we’re here to tell you that times have changed. Now search engines have grown more sophisticated and can spot overstuffed keywords from a mile away. Instead of trying to pack on keywords, focus on a few relevant keywords and include them only when relevant.

6. Not Being Mobile-Friendly

Making your site mobile-friendly isn’t going to directly affect your SEO ranking but consider this: if people click on your website from their mobile devices and land on a clunky site that isn’t mobile optimized, they’ll likely bounce off the site right away. With mobile searches increasing year over year, this is something to keep in mind.

Make these small tweaks and you’ll already be ahead of the curve. Bet a lot of these were simpler than you imagined. You’ve got this. Happy SEO optimizing!  

Why You Should Always be Using the Latest Version of WordPress

At ATAK, most of the websites we build incorporate WordPress, and this should be no surprise. WordPress is nearly ubiquitous, powering 28% of all websites. In our work in web development for clients, we’ve worked with WordPress in considerable depth, sifted through many, many themes, and installed countless plugins and security updates. We’ve launched hundreds of websites since 2006, and we’ve learned a lot in the process.

Why WordPress Updates are Important

We have talked about the benefits and drawbacks of open source software on the blog before. WordPress is an open source CMS, meaning that all WordPress websites are based on the same structural code that anyone can access and manipulate. This is one of WordPress’s strengths, in that this allows smart developers from around the world to build improvements for the WordPress CMS, which can become updates that are shared to everyone through WordPress updates.

There is one main concern, however: the popularity of the WordPress CMS increases the likelihood that your website could be targeted by hackers when a new vulnerability is uncovered. The popularity of WordPress attracts the attention of malicious developers who are trying to get a hold of as much personal user information as possible.

Of all websites hacked in Q3 2016, 74% of those were using WordPress.

Bleeping Computer

Because of this, WordPress is secured through patches and updates when vulnerabilities in the CMS are identified. This was previously a manual process, putting many sites at risk. Website administrators were shown a message at the top of their WordPress dashboard, which could confuse some users, and the message alone did not ensure that security updates were installed.

WordPress version 3.7 introduced automatic updates for maintenance and security, reducing the risk that many sites would fall prey to vulnerabilities found in the CMS. Below are some specific reasons why these updates are so important.

Security Updates for WordPress

One of the biggest challenges faced by the internet is the technology arms race between bad guys who want to steal your information and hijack your website; and good guys (like us!) who want to create functional, secure websites for businesses.

The consequences of being targeted by a hacker who has uncovered a WordPress vulnerability can be wide ranging, but include:

  • Losing administrator control over your account
  • Having customer financial data stolen
  • Illegal content being hosted on your site
  • Damage to the code and structure of your website

When WordPress issues a security update, the community has discovered a part of WordPress that is vulnerable to hacking techniques. The tactics and technology are always changing, making regular updates a part of life online.

Website Speed and Performance Updates

Browser standards, mobile usability standards, and other features of the always-updating internet technology scene, mean that website performance technology must also shift with time.

“In the most recent update to WordPress (version 4.8.2), there were nine security updates, most of them involving involving cross-scripting vulnerabilities. WordPress practices responsible disclosure. Part of that is making vulnerabilities public once they are fixed. As soon as a vulnerability is made public, the hackers know exactly how to exploit your site. This makes it even more important that you update immediately and don’t turn off the automatic updates that are now built into WordPress core.” – Jules Sherred, Developer at ATAK Interactive

Some of these are continual improvements, like site speed which is great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), on top of improving user experience. With this in mind, the community of WordPress developers are constantly working to improve loading times for its websites. Thus, enhanced site speed is usually part of the package with a WordPress update.

From time to time, a larger update will come along which adds or upgrades built in WordPress features.

When you ignore these updates, you’re forfeiting the opportunity to give your visitors the best possible experience.

Bug Fixes

‘Bug fixes’ aren’t the highest priority for updates, unless you’re being impacted by one of the bugs. Usually, they just help every part of the site work the way it’s supposed to.

“Over 70% of the websites I’ve personally reviewed this past year were compromised due to either outdated WordPress plugins or outdated WordPress installations.” Jim Walker, Hack Repair Guy

When and How To Update WordPress Websites

Critical updates are going to need to be done no matter what; your business can’t afford to risk a data breach. Bug fixes and performance updates, however, can be spaced out so that they suit your development schedule and budget.

First things first: If your WordPress site includes custom coding and design, it’s best to leave the updates to your development team. Because WordPress functions often share code, unexpected complications can arise from updates that require a developer’s knowledge to navigate.

Similar to ensuring that your business operates with the most up-to-date practices and technologies available in your industry, making sure that your website is running on the latest version of WordPress should also be part of your routine in keeping your business competitive.

WordPress Updates Do Matter

When WordPress makes a high-priority update, these fixes can be comparable to an antivirus software update. Threats and vulnerabilities are always changing within digital systems, which underscores the value of having a digital marketing partner who can be on the lookout for the latest risks, and how to avoid them.

A development team like the one at ATAK Interactive can help your business navigate every part of online security, from CMS vulnerabilities to transaction encryption.

If you think your website is in need of an update, talk to us and we can help identify exactly where you could use a bit of sprucing up and how to do it.

6 Strategies for Building a Nonprofit Website in 2017

Every nonprofit organization can benefit from having a digital presence to solidify their mission and spread their message. The process of website development can be overwhelming. At ATAK, we help clients get down to the core of their identity, and use this to guide the website design and development process.

Attracting new donors, and staying top-of-mind with everyone in your donor base, is a complicated balance in 2017. Mindful and well-meaning donors can still become forgetful as time goes on, necessitating ongoing marketing work and the importance of integrating donor database, payment, and media systems into a website from the ground up.

When creating a nonprofit website, attention has to be equally split between communicating a message to current and potential donors, and creating an interactive, technically flawless experience.

Here are 6 must-haves ATAK’s development and marketing teams have built into nonprofit websites in 2017 so far:

1. Sharing Your Message and Call to Action

It’s important that your website design is intuitive and attractive to your visitors. When built right, your website will attract visitors who have never heard of your charity, or mission.

A responsive website design with arresting copy is a must-have for nonprofit organizations to look modern and transparent. Your website should clearly communicate what you do, who you are, and why you’re doing it. This includes information on your home page, an ‘About’ page sharing what you do and who leads your organization, and a blog where your team can share news and opinion.

For our client Elevate Adventures, this meant a concise, step-by-step for the process of facilitating a nature experience for nonprofit organizations.

The art direction for this project was clear: we would let the national parks speak for themselves. Sweeping nature photos share Elevate’s spirit of adventure and reverence for the National Parks it helps others access and enjoy.

The right branding and visual style helps build confidence in your site and organization. The right logo, design, and imagery combine in a way that helps visitors quickly and simply understand what your organization wants them to do – such as donate, engage, or volunteer.

Your Nonprofit’s Messaging Should Include:

  • Logo and brand identity
  • Photographs of leadership, and program participants (if possible)
  • Video, audio, and documents that can be used to communicate your mission
  • A clear point of contact for site visitors

2. Advanced Fundraising and Database Technology

As a nonprofit organization, attracting more donations can be the backbone of your digital presence. In any nonprofit’s website, donation should be prominent and simple – and the experience for returning donors should be easy and comfortable.

Donation technology can be included in a website in a way that simplifies recurring donations. GO Campaign focuses on recruiting monthly donors to their efforts to help vulnerable children. Through a mix of messaging and technology, Go and ATAK were able to empower donors to understand the scope of Go Campaign’s initiatives.

The culmination of this education and branding is a prominent donation landing page, allowing for monthly, quarterly, or annual recurring donations. Proper database integration enables their donor outreach team to create marketing campaigns that segment audiences across marketing channels.

Fundraising should also be present on digital channels beyond your website. There are more digital donation channels available now than have ever been before! ATAK helps nonprofit organizations expand their donation base by using new fundraising tools.

Improving Fundraising Potential

Digital innovation has created more ways for nonprofit organizations to accept donations from an audience that is increasingly focused on having a seamless online experience.

Social media platforms have created integrated donation tools, so that visitors can contribute to an organization without ever leaving their social media apps.

Facebook has a short verification process that allows verified charities in the US to add a donation button and fundraising tools to their Pages – meaning that visitors can donate to your organization without leaving Facebook. Likewise, Snapchat’s SnapCash allows donors to send cash from within their app.

Crowdfunding campaigns can be another way to modernize charity fundraising. Platforms like YouCaring, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo allow charities to build compelling fundraising landing pages for specific products. Keep in mind that these platforms will all have rules of their own – for instance, Kickstarter doesn’t allow pure donations; any backer funds have to be contributing to a project.

Finally, if an awareness campaign is targeting prospective donors who are not yet aware of your organization, it may be easier to build trust with a payment platform they already trust. Square Cash and Paypal, for instance, are used by millions of Americans for ecommerce and small business transactions, making the donation process faster and more familiar.

The value of these tools is meeting customers where they already are, on platforms they trust. These can make donation simpler, and remove barriers such as security concerns.

Tying It Together

GO Campaign manages their donor database through blackbaud’s eTapestry donor management CRM. This enterprise-level donor management software meant that integrating donor data from the website, social media, email, direct mail, and events management would be seamless.

Reducing the time spent pruning and organizing customer data means that more energy can be spent using the data to build responsive, cross-channel integrated marketing campaigns for your most engaged supporters. ATAK’s development team is experienced and ready to help your nonprofit streamline its donor database.

What your website needs to modernize donation strategy:

  • A donations page.
  • Simple, clear CTAs leading to the page.
  • Developers who can integrate your donor database.
  • Social media strategy to build donor base off-site and re-engage.
  • A payment function to accept funds, like PayPal or Authorize.Net.

3. Connect With Your Audience

For an established nonprofit organization like OUR HOUSE, ATAK was able to focus on donor messaging with a fresh WordPress website design.

With their website, OUR HOUSE aims to recruit volunteers, support group attendees, and donations. The primary focus of these efforts is to maintain and grow their grief support group program: volunteers to run support groups and assist with campaigns, support group members in need of OUR HOUSE’s grief resources, and donors who can help OUR HOUSE continue their mission.

Thanks to their history as an established grief resource, OUR HOUSE has two further programs: grief training for medical students and staff, as well as on-site grief support services for schools or companies.  On top of this, OUR HOUSE offers a summer camp for support group alumni!

The home page uses a slider and three prominent boxes to help visitors navigate to the right place.

On the home page, our design devotes significant space to making sure OUR HOUSE’s program offerings are clear and accessible.

In the pages for these programs, parents, children and professionals can learn more about the philosophy and positive effects of the grief support programs offered. Once a visitor navigates to a page for the service they are looking for, they find content that demonstrates the impact of OUR HOUSE’s programs, with testimonials from volunteers, participants, and medical professionals.

OUR HOUSE has a variety of volunteering opportunities for the community. Their primary volunteer focus is recruiting grief support group leaders. Second to this is volunteers for their events: Camp Erin, and the annual Run for Hope. The first volunteer landing page breaks down these opportunities, each of which have their own page and signup form, so that OUR HOUSE’s volunteer coordinators can respond based on interest.

When a donor visits the site, OUR HOUSE offers a variety of support options that help reinforce how much work they do to help people experience grief in a supportive environment.

Ongoing direct mail, email, and digital marketing campaigns build donor support, and events throughout the year help to build personal connections with these audiences. It is important that their site be able to communicate the breadth of activity OUR HOUSE is engaging in, to help donors understand their value.

Effective Program Pages Contain:

  • Descriptions of your goals, process, and qualifications
  • Testimonials about program efficacy
  • Details for how to apply to, or enroll in your programs – whether that is a contact form, enrollment plugin, or phone number

4. Transparency

Potential donors are looking to build reasons to trust your organization. Websites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar scrutinize the public presence of a charitable organization, and provide scores of trustworthiness, which can have a significant impact on donor trust.

Your organization can build trust by adding this transparency to its website. Most commonly, this means adding a page for financial and other disclosures. GO Campaign has its past ten years’ Form 990 in PDF, for example:

GO Campaign also takes advantage of donator trust in GuideStar, encouraging visitors to read its GuideStar profile, and highlighting their commitment to financial and program transparency.

OUR HOUSE highlights their Charity Navigator score, provides financial summaries, and anticipates that potential donors will visit this page by including a donation button at the bottom.

Effective Transparency Can Include:

  • Easy-to-find financials
  • Program size and outcomes
  • Board member and staff disclosures
  • Connections with Charity Navigator or Guide Star

5. Showing Your Impact

Celebrating the results of your programs and efforts is critical to grow support for your nonprofit organization. Everyone likes a success story, and it helps you stand out to potential donors and corporate partners. This page is also effective for media coverage and social media – make sure it’s easy to see and share your biggest wins.

ATAK’s client Theatre of Hearts / Youth First provides programs to children in public schools, which means the academic results of their programs is critical to continue providing access to art classes in inner-city classrooms. Their results page is academically focused, to reflect these needs.

Because art education is about subjective experience, Theatre of Hearts follows this content with testimonials from students who experienced the programs.

In their blog, GO Campaign shares photography and stories related to the programs they run to help vulnerable youth and families around the world as weekly project updates, which demonstrate GO Campaign’s ongoing success and efforts.

Theatre of Hearts uses their Cool Art page features paintings by the students who experience their arts outreach programs.

The way your organization shows and celebrates its outcomes will be unique to your mission. Product partnerships, video content, events, social media, and written content can all be part of showing your outcomes – but be sure to back them up with research and hard numbers about what you’ve achieved.

Each piece gets a personal touch on its own page, with an artist quote to personalize the impact of the piece, and value of the overall program.

Your Outcomes Page May Include:

  • Photography of the program in action
  • Statistics about program results
  • Testimonials from people affected by your programs

6. Your Own Spin

There’s something that makes your organization special, and sets you apart from the rest. A marketing team is what helps you amplify these differences and turn them into valuable qualities that turn a passerby into a donor.

Your own spin could be almost anything – merchandise, social media events, brand partnerships, or special events. Our project managers bring their skills and creativity to help nonprofit organizations leverage these unique branding opportunities into donors and partnerships.

Ways to differentiate your nonprofit with digital marketing campaigns include:

  • Ecommerce. Theatre of Hearts sells a selection of the paintings made in its art programs, with a note from the artist about what they made and why. The proceeds of the painting go back into the arts programs. Ecommerce  can be easily built into a WordPress website with WooCommerce – one of our specialties.
  • Events and Performances. Some things have to be experienced to be understood. Fundraising events, performances, galas, etc – they all start with a list of invitations and RSVPs. Tools like Eventbrite can be integrated into social media and websites to promote ticket sales.
  • Worldwide Online Events. Online events that can be shared on social media, like the Alzheimers Association’s Longest Day, require careful selection and implementation of software to help participants and organizations run distributed events, but the gains, and spotlight, can be very rewarding.
  • Social Contests. The #Ham4All challenge has swept social media, thanks in no small part to the fact that the entire world knows all the words. Your organization isn’t Hamilton, but the structure of the campaign is very similar to a pledge drive, with a compelling direct challenge.
  • Flash Fundraising. Flash sales and short-term promotions have become ecommerce bread and butter. Your nonprofit can use this tactic, too. Here’s how Wabash College did it, and there are only a few basic ingredients needed to try your own campaign:
    • Incentive – A goal everyone is rallying behind, like a donor total.
    • Urgency – Only 24 hours to donate!
    • Publicity – Make sure you’re extra active to get the word out, with social media assets ready.
    • Make it Special – Get your management team to do live video chats, and social media events with prominent supporters, to make it feel like a special occasion.

Every cause, and every organization, has something that makes it unique. At ATAK, our brand, marketing, and development teams all work to maximize this special factor, and make you stand out from the crowd. This is why we put so much value on getting to know our clients on a deeper level by having one central point of contact for any project we’re making with you.

If your nonprofit is in need of a new website to rejuvenate your campaigns, contact ATAK today for a free website quote and marketing consultation.

Protecting Small Business Systems from Ransomware: Interview

Last month, one of the largest globally targeted ransomware attacks in history hit the news – taking out the computer systems in England and Scotland, disabling digital records and equipment in their healthcare facilities.

Most businesses are much smaller organizations than the globally-recognized NHS, but we wanted to know – does that make them safe from ransomware attacks? If not, what can be done to protect systems and data? ATAK Interactive reached out to our technology partner, INC Technologies. President Aramis Hernandez gave us a primer on what you need to know.

1. Do you see ransomware attacks with your IT clients?

AH: Fortunately, we don’t see it as much with our existing clients. However, most of our new IT clients arrive at our doorstep because they lacked the proper care and security. The process starts with home or business computers. Usually, these are machines running Windows – since it’s the most popular operating system, and many users don’t keep their computer security and operating systems up to date, making that computer the most likely candidate to be subjected to a phishing attack.

While everyone has learned not to trust email attachments, email links are another story. Think about how many links you click every day – that’s the most common way we see ransomware make its way into a machine. You’re much more likely to click a link, than download an unusual looking file.

2. Tell us some more about that – how does ransomware end up on someone’s machine?

AH: In an email phishing attack, an attacker represents itself as a person or group that you trust, like Paypal or Google. Then you download a file or click a link, and the software will exploit a vulnerability in your computer.

This can also be links posted in other places, too –  like social media sites, or search results. The page you end up at exploits a weakness in your browser or your operating system, and installs the ransomware.

3. How do these attacks work?

AH: You’ll turn on your computer and be locked out, and see a message asking you for money to deactivate the software and give you access to your computer. The amounts van be very low – on average, $100 is the unlock ‘cost’. These hackers work on high volume, asking for an amount low enough that it’ll hit your wallet, but you’re unlikely to refuse.

4. How can users protect their systems from ransomware?

AH: This is a case where your best bet is proactive care. Make sure that you’re using the latest operating system, the latest browser, and you’re updating your security and antivirus programs.

In the case of websites, managed hosting is a way to protect your website. This means that your web host maintains your security and backups (Like ATAK’s hosting partner, Zerolag), so that you can leave your security and data to the experts.


Ransomware Takeaways for Small Business 


What surprised us most on this call with Aramis was the prevalence of ransomware attacks they see in their support operations. High-profile ransomware attacks give the impression you’re safe if you aren’t a big business, but that is definitely not the case.

The biggest difficulty when it comes to ransomware is that nobody wants to think they’re vulnerable – and nobody wants to admit they were attacked. This is what the hackers are really banking on. Embarrassed computer owners will pay the ransom in order to avoid admitting they were hacked in public.

Recently, the podcast Reply All did an episode about this dimension of phishing attacks, called “What Kind of Idiot Gets Phished?”. After a host’s question about phishing is taken as a personal slight by one of his colleagues, the hosts experiment with phishing, and discover how easy it can be to fall for it, and how personal that deception can feel.

The personal dimension to ransomware is why it’s critical to have IT help that you can trust, before you find yourself wanting to hide an embarrassing situation.

The second interesting point in what Aramis told us was how often a phishing attack is a link, instead of a file. It often feels harmless to click a link in an email that’s unusual, or an email that you open while in a rush. This mistake can really hit you in the wallet.

Using an extra layer of browser security can help defend your accounts from phishing attacks. Enabling your firewall’s browser protections, and using a Chrome extension like Google’s Password Alert can keep your passwords safe.

The last line of defense, though, is personal judgment and patience. When you’re sent a link you aren’t sure about, investigate before you click it. Learn to identify common phishing URL tricks that are used to make a scam URL look legit:

  • Unicode tricks, like using Cyrillic characters to make a URL look like it belongs to another company: аррӏе.com is using cyrillic characters to look like apple.com – the second URL is the real one!
  • Fake URLs in an email. The typed link looks valid, like “google.com”, but if you hover over the link, you can see that the website you’re actually being sent to is something else.
  • Misleading URLs in an email. This was how the Gimlet Media team fell for a phishing attack in the podcast episode linked above. “Gimlet” and “Girnlet” look similar enough to work.
  • Fake login pages. These are very popular. Be very wary about giving your login details for Google, Dropbox, and banking sites on pages you were linked to in an email or IM. When in doubt, type in the address of the real thing to log in.

If you’re looking for an IT partner to support your systems, we highly recommend INC Technologies. And if you’re looking for digital marketing security and managed hosting, give ATAK a call today.

 

Modules for Magento Ecommerce Conversion Optimization

We’ve covered effective SEO practices for driving up the number of potential customers to your site (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3). However, getting them there is only step 1. The ecommerce sales funnel begins with the initial site visit and ends when the customer makes their final payment.

Along the way, keeping your customers engaged and yourself from being subject to the dreaded “shopping cart abandonment” becomes an increasingly difficult task.

Each stage of the ecommerce sales funnel is either an opportunity for a customer to say goodbye to your site, or an opportunity for you to further captivate their interest and move them further along to completing checkout.

In our work in building Magento ecommerce sites, we’ve found a handful of Magento extensions that are particularly effective in making each stage of the sales funnel a valuable, sales-encouraging experience.


Homepage


As soon as a potential customer lands on your site, greet them with product offerings that are tailored towards them. Customer Specific Products is a Magento extension that allows you to control what a customer sees. You can choose to hide or display certain product categories, as well as set custom pricing for specific customer segments. Customizing your store’s product offerings so that only the most relevant ones at the most attractive price are displayed takes away the distracting and unnecessary clutter that often lead to abandonment at this stage.

If you’d rather not limit your product offerings to any of your visitors, it would benefit you then, to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. Many customers will come to your website with a specific goal in mind—these people know exactly what they want and they’ll head to the search functionality on your site to find it. In fact, search users account for 30% of your customers and are more likely to convert.

Elastic Search provides a faster and more a valuable search experience than Magento’s default search function. Autocomplete, autocorrect, and did-you-mean features make it easier for a customer to find what they’re looking for or point them to similar products. Best of all, the extension delivers fast search results, but works with other pages of your site so that those pages load faster.

To take product search one step step further, consider installing live chat on your site in order to personally assist your shoppers find what they’re looking for.


Category Browsing


Now let’s consider those who are still looking. Perhaps these customers don’t know exactly what they want but it helps to have the tools available for them to narrow down their choices. The 2 Layered Navigation extension allows customers to filter products by certain attributes such as size, style, color, and so on. The extension also comes with a handy price slider with which your customers can narrow down these options to those that fall within a desired price range. All of this happens instantly thanks to Ajax Loading.


Enticing Product Pages


By now, your customers have found something that they consider purchasing and thus, are on an individual product page. Here, you can up the item’s appeal by equipping its page with extensions that really show off its awesomeness.

If you’ve got videos that highlight the special features of your products, Magento Product Video helps integrate them onto the product page. The extension supports both YouTube and Vimeo, as well as allows you to upload videos directly.

Magic Zoom Plus, gives you the sought-after zoom feature for your products images, giving the discerning customers a literal closer look at the details of your products. “Hover over to zoom” and “click to enlarge” both come with this extension. Best of all, it’s compatible on all major browsers as well as mobile devices and tablets.

If your product offerings come in a variety of colors or patterns, Color Swatch lets your customers to visualize each one in their varying colors, designs, textures, and patterns.


Proceed to Checkout


Now, we’re at the home stretch of the purchasing process. This is where 46% of cart abandonment occurs. To combat that, make your check out process simple and distraction-free.

Extensions like One Step Checkout, Magecheckout, and Checkout Suite can help do away with the extra steps of check out by:

  • Condensing the traditional six-step check out process into one page.
  • Auto-completing address fields with information from Google Places.
  • Dynamically updating the total price whenever the customer changes the order quantity and/or shipping method.

The checkout page is also where you can tackle the issue of shipping. Unexpected shipping cost is the primary reason for 25% of shopping cart abandonment occurrences. Magento’s default functionality only allows you to calculate the weight of the entire order to send to your shipping provider and we know that shipping an entire order in one package is rarely the case for businesses.

Here’s where Dimensional Shipping comes in. This extension allows you to break the order down based on how you actually package them. At checkout, Dimensional Shipping calculates the dimensions and weight of the package(s) based on your rules on how certain products will be packaged. This information is sent to your chosen carrier and your customers get more accurate live shipping rates for their order. Dimensional shipping is compatible with FedEx, UPS, and USPS live rates.


Almost there…


Congrats! Your customer has successfully placed an order thanks to a well-oiled sales funnel. But even after the final purchase, steps can be taken to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Here are a few more modules we love that put the cherry on top of a successful transaction:

Need some more help in your ecommerce efforts? Contact us for a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of your website and we help do away with those abandoned shopping cart blues.

 

Brand Identity: What it is and How to Attain it

“People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

To have a compelling brand identity, you must first understand and articulate why you do what you do. What drives you to get out of bed every morning and tackle what’s ahead? When you wake up in the middle of the night with the next great idea to push your vision forward, why do you become so excited you can’t go back to sleep? Your “why” is the core around which all the elements of your brand identity should revolve and relate back to.


Definition Elements of a Brand Identity Kit


Let’s start with defining Brand Identity. And like the title of Sinek’s book, let’s “start with Why.”

Mission. Your mission statement is an exposition of why your company exists, why you do what you do. What drives you to do what you do? Is it a need to push boundaries in the industry? Is it to inspire change in the world? Is it to continuously rise above the expectations of your target market through constant innovation?

Your mission statement is your “why.” Without it, your brand identity will never be one that appeals to customers time and time again.

Position Statement. A positions statement consists of a few sentences that articulate the values in your product or service to your target market, within the realm of your competitors. Let’s break this down.

First, simply state what you’re offering. Ex. “We provide ____”

Second, identify your target market. To whom are you selling these products/service? Or rather, whom do you hope to sell to? There can oftentimes be a considerable difference between the two, but remember that in order for your business to be what you want it to be, you must always be targeting your ideal customer. Figure out what they look for when they’re shopping and adjust your product or services accordingly.

Third, consider your competition. Reviewing your competitors helps you figure out who you’re up against in the industry. You might sell similar products, but through a competitor analysis, you’ll be able to pinpoint an aspect of your product offering that makes yours more desirable. (We explain…)

Here is your value proposition. Why should your target market buy your products and not a competitor’s? Is because they’re thrifty and you offer the best price? Do they value cutting edge design or superior quality material? Do they value the name and reputation of your brand? Capitalize on what your customers value most and make it clear that that is exactly what your company offers.

Those were just the core elements of your business. Now, let’s move onto considering your style elements. Style elements of brand identity add up to make your brand identity what it is to the public. These are concrete, customer-facing elements that ideally, should communicate the abstract values of your company that were defined above.

Keeping these vital elements well-organized in a handbook helps you clearly communicate the standards by which they can to be used—helpful for your design team, or anyone else that may be producing your business’ branded materials.


Style Elements of a Brand Identity Kit


Logo

A logo is a symbol that is essentially your business’ face to the world. Being so, it must reflect your “why.” We know, capturing your company’s values, culture, and mission through a small symbol seems like an elusive task, but all the small parts that make up your logo (font, color, imagery if any) can be fine-tuned to get the job done. Consider ATAK’s logo—black and white, simple font, clean lines. It reflects who we are, and that’s direct, no bs, ready to get down to business.

Your logo could either be a graphic symbol, a word mark, or a pairing of both. Some companies have done extremely well with a logo that’s just a word mark (think Coca-Cola), and these logos are often cheaper and easier to formulate. In any case, the ways in which your logo can and cannot be used should be clearly defined in your brand identity kit.

Have a standard for spacing around your logo so that it never appears too closely to another image as this could take away from its impact. In addition to its original dimensions, render your logo in a variety of orientations so that it still shines when used on different platforms or promotional items.

Colors

The colors of your company play an important role in building the desired reputation you want for your brand. Factors like individual experiences and cultural differences make it difficult for us to make broad statements such as “yellow means happy!” but research has found that the appropriateness of a color in relation to a brand makes a difference in how the brand is perceived. In other words, are your colors appropriate to what you’re selling? Do they effectively communicate your brand personality and values?

Once you have these questions answered, figure out your brand colors’ hex code, Pantone colors, CMYK, and RBG colors and give these a section in your brand identity kit. This goes for both your primary colors (usually appears in your logo) and your secondary colors that support and complement them. With the case of secondary colors, it’s helpful to communicate how and where they can be used.

Typography

The typeface in your company’s communications provides another opportunity to build consistency in your brand identity. Choose a font that looks good in various sizes and weights, and not too decorative to serve in important correspondence.

Keep in mind that not all programs and computers could be compatible with the font you’ve chosen. If you’re producing your marketing materials in-house, make sure that those fonts are available on all of the systems that produce these materials. If you’re handing your marketing efforts over to an agency, be sure to provide a location for where these fonts can be downloaded. If the font that you’ve chosen exists on Mac but not PC or vice versa, be sure to choose an alternative that works to the same effect.


Identity Elements to Consider


Other smaller elements within the company are worth considering as they still have a large bearing on creating a unified brand image. Having a company-wide convention on email signatures helps further a company persona, especially since emails are public facing. The formatting, colors and logo placement (if any) should be clearly communicated to your employees when they come onboard. Here at ATAK, we encourage our team members to place a quote in their signature in which they find drive and meaning. Similarly, company headshots should follow a strict convention—what is the dress code, background, color scheme, etc.?

Have guidelines on how your company speaks. What kind of tone do you want your company to take on in its copy and outside communications? The tone should reflect your company’s values defined in your mission and position statement. Is the company voice exciting, friendly, silly, or direct and straightforward? Have a guideline on how copy should be used helps keep your company voice consistent across all platforms of communications.

For help in getting started, Here’s how we ATAK brand identity.

All the elements of your brand identity add up to how you’re perceived by the world. Remember that a brand identity kit is nothing if it doesn’t circle back to you mission statement—your “why.” Thus, each part should be carefully deliberated so that they go back in support of that one unifying message. A brand identity kit helps keep these elements clearly defined and accessible to anyone who may have a hand in your business’ marketing efforts.

Must-Have Magento Extensions for 2017

Out of the box, Magento is already a powerful ecommerce platform. The biggest challenge ecommerce businesses encounter trying to manage their own Magento stores is its complexity.

Thanks to Magento’s dedication to staying open source, the portability of its code mean that independent developers can create tools that help users and businesses get the functionality they need from Magento, and smooth over complications that they’re not interested in.

We develop Magento ecommerce stores every day for clients big and small. Just like no two stores are the same, there are store owners who desire different levels of hands-on interaction with their ecommerce store.

Some of the tech savvy ones can’t wait to dig into the UI and learn everything, but most of our Magento ecommerce clients need their ecommerce store to fit their busy schedule. Magento needs to work for customers, and be easily edited and updated.

That’s why it’s important to choose extensions that will make your website work for customers: easy to navigate, quick to load, and as interactive as modern ecommerce customers expect.

Top Magento Plugins for Simplifying Ecommerce

Website Firewall, Anti-Hacking, and Security: Magefence

If your site is down because it’s been hacked, you’re going to lose customer trust as well as SEO cachet. Protect your rankings and customer confidence with an extension that will be your ecommerce bodyguard. MageFence provides you information and warnings, and can give you Two-Step Verification, adding an extra layer of security to your store dashboard.

Ebay and Amazon Feed Exposure: Magento Feed Manager

One store isn’t always enough for the ecommerce marketplace. Adding your product feed to trusted sites like Google Shopping, Amazon, and Ebay, this feed manager builds a database of your products, and regularly uploads this with these ecommerce giants. Increase your potential audience size easily and automatically.

Page Speed for SEO and Customers: Warp Full Page Caching

Your store’s load time can have a chilling effect on your sales if it’s taking too long. Speed up your load time, and lose fewer customers. A caching plugin will allow you to put up site pages without having to spend as much time testing and tweaking for better load speeds. Warp is a perennial favorite.

Wholesale and Retail Pricing: Customer Specific Products

If your store offers wholesale pricing to other businesses, and separate retail pricing to customers, this is a must-have plugin. Manage your wholesale and retail operations from a single store with Customer Specific Products, and control the pricing that is available to different customer types.

Special Discounts and Promotions: Discount Links 

Make the purchase process simpler than ever with a plugin to simplify your sales and promotions. With this plugin from Themezaa, generate links which can automatically apply discounts when clicked. Don’t lose sales to discount confusion!

This plugin will also generate a report based on discount codes, to make your future marketing decisions even easier (but more on that later).

Personalized Product Recommendations: Automatic Related Products

When a customer is already making one purchase, it becomes easier to get them to add a second – as long as you can put the correct secondary product in the right place.

More Detailed Product Information: Product Videos

Delivering self-hosted video can be a real drag on load times. A plugin that makes it easy to embed video from outside sources simplifies the delivery of product video. This plugin can pull videos straight from Youtube, so that you can add influencer reviews of your products just as easily as your own videos!

Simplified Shopping Menus: Fast Navigation

Granular product navigation helps your customers find just what they’re looking for. This plugin makes navigation faster and easier for customers, with AJAX-powered menus that make selecting multiple attributes much faster.

Integrate Magento & WordPress Search: Product Search

If your website uses both Magento and WordPress, it’s necessary that your search extension bridges the gap between these platforms. Sphinx search makes this fast and easy, preventing customer frustration and abandoned carts.

Ecommerce Email with Great Data: Mailchimp + Mandrill

Mailchimp’s Mandrill service allows you to send easy and well-designed transactional ecommerce emails. Mandrill also allows you to market to customers automatically with abandoned cart, follow-up, and VIP customer emails. See our suggestions for ecommerce email automation workflows.

Better Store and Sales Data: Power Dashboard

Good decisions come from good data! The default Magento dashboard doesn’t make important store and sales data as accessible as some of the better extensions. Power Dashboard makes sales and product breakdowns much more accessible and visually appealing.

One of the reasons Magento is a core platform at ATAK is the variety and flexibility of its extension marketplace. Without the open source community, Magento wouldn’t be as robust or versatile as we expect it to be now.

Choosing Magento Extensions

Extensions with a great track record of stability and support make life easier for everyone involved in a web development project, from developers to ecommerce store managers.

On the fence about Magento? We wrote an ebook dedicated to why we love Magento, called Why Ecommerce Stores are Graduating from Shopify to Magento. Get it here!

Is Your Website an Internet Relic?

Getting a new website live can feel like a gargantuan effort. For many business owners, once a new site is live, it’s something that they no longer concern themselves with. As time passes, website functions and expectations change. If your business website has been left on the shelf, it may have gathered a bit of dust in the meantime.

The Symptoms of an Internet Relic


Can You Edit and Update Your Site?


In 2017, a website needs to be a document that can be easily edited and updated. A content management system is the basis of most websites, but it wasn’t a few years ago. If you can’t easily update the text on the pages of your website yourself, it might be time to have a more modern website to be built.

Our preferred website content management system is WordPress, which is open source and user-friendly. This way, business owners can keep their website up to date, and add their expertise to their website through a blog. It’s a great way to promote events, and changes in your industry, as well as get some search engine traffic benefits.


Does Your Website Support Mobile Phones?


If your website can’t be visited easily from a mobile phone or tablet, you’re in relic territory.  A responsive website is a must-have for modern search traffic and website visitors. If you do only one of these – fix this!


Is Your Website Interactive?


It’s important to decide what an interactive website means for your company. For some, this means that an interested customer can enter their information into a form to send an inquiry to your sales team. Usually for a business-to-business website, this means contact forms, some email automation, and blog commenting.

When it comes to a website with a more social focus, like a retail ecommerce business, interactivity can go to a whole new level. Interactive websites can personalize a visitor’s experience every time they come back to the website. For a clothing site, this may involve the proper seasonal selections, international currency options, and remembering a customer’s clothing sizing preferences.

Basic interactivity is now the expectation for any website – customers want a way to contact your organization, and a way to explore what you offer, sell, or do. If you don’t add interactivity to your website, you may be losing customers to sites that provide it.


Can Your Website Give You Data?


Modern marketing needs information to survive! Google Analytics is a free baseline for collecting website visitor information. Google analytics can be used for SEO, but it can also provide information about the paths visitors take on your website, and how they take the actions that your organization needs for online lead generation.

Website data can be collected beyond google analytics with tools that provide heatmaps, live chat to offer an instant customer contact, as well as advertising tools that can help you understand your digital audience.


What To Do If Your Website is an Antique


So, it turns out you’re holding an aging website in your databases. What’s the next step?

First things first: Think about what you want your website to be able to achieve. Your website can get sales, generate new leads, educate visitors, provide content, and nearly any other goal you can think of – as long as your marketing team can help you communicate that goal to your customers.

Next, do a little competitor research. What is your biggest competition doing with their website?

Don’t get too deep into assuming everything they’re doing on their website is working, but do take note of common features, language, and functionality in these websites.

After that comes a fun step: what website styles fit your company? Look at some popular websites and think about the parts of their design and functionality that you really enjoy. How can you translate that to fit your brand?

Finally, find the right partner to build it. With whichever web design agency you choose, make sure the communication is clear and you know exactly what you are getting. A good web design company will explain what is in the project scope and which opportunities exist outside of it. Lastly, you want to develop a long-term relationship with the company that builds your website, so before moving forward, consider the personalities of the team involved and make sure you want these people in your professional life.


In the Meantime…


A website redesign can also be a great time to refresh your brand identity, your branding materials, and the way you talk about what you do. The right agency can make this part of a new website design, creating merchandising and content marketing opportunities that will connect customers with your new branding.

In the end, an old website isn’t the end of the world – but it could mean that you are missing out on business opportunities to competitors with a more responsive, interactive digital presence. It’s not about following every new trend anymore; having a great website is something nearly any company should be able to do for its customers.


open source CMS CTA Banner


Web Design for Multi-location Businesses

 

As ecommerce continues to grow, users are now flooded with results when they search for a particular product or activity. In response, searches are becoming more geo-specific. A 2015 Google report found that searches containing the words “near me” have increased 34 times since 2011. We’ve talked before about local search now being the name of the game when it comes to Google search results. In short, local search is way for search engines to further narrow down the now endless options that a customer can come upon by indexing a website’s geographic information and giving priority to those that are more local to the searcher.

 

No matter how large or reputable the business, winning in local search means putting in the work so that each location has its own unique, individual, localized webpage. “What are these so very coveted aspects of a localized webpage?” you ask. Let’s take a look at some of the components that’ll make your business feel closer to home—to your customers, and to search engines.

 


Location Based URLs


 

If your business operates multiple locations, it would behoove you to give each location its own page with a unique, location-specific URL. As in the example of our client We Rock the Spectrum, they operate more than 60 locations worldwide! Follow their URL convention for every location they operate, www.companynamelocation.com. From the URL itself, it’s clear that you operate a branch of your business in that particular area. Location-based URL’s makes it easy for search engines to funnel local users right to that page.

 


NAP


 

A mistake that you wouldn’t think would happen as often as it does is a business not providing simple, consistent, readily available contact information on their site. The absence of contact information makes it impossible for both customers and search engines to know whether or not you’re within their reach. Make it your first priority to have your business’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) prominently displayed. It’s best to have it on the immediate landing page, as well as on a footer that runs throughout your entire website.

Not only does NAP information makes it easier for customers to find you, it also gives search engines the geographical information they need to display your business first to your geographically relevant customers. Bonus, not-so-obvious tip: make sure your address and phone number stay the same throughout your site—inconsistencies happens more often than you think.

 


Geographically Targeted Content


 

1. Once you’ve got your customers to your page, keep things familiar with these bits of localized content:Your Story. Let your customers in on who you are. Share the history of your business, its mission, and how it’s servicing the community.

Hanz
Hanz de Fuko

2. An integrated map and directions. Placing a map of your business location on the page is a quick and easy solution that allows for potential customers to visualize where you are and how to get there.

WHP
Woodland Hills Pharmacy

 

3. Testimonials. Does Karen from Sunnyvale love your business? Ask for a testimonial and display it on your webpage! This provides for a local connection between you and the community.

PUG
Pin-up Golf

 

4. Media Gallery. Photos of your staff, a live Instagram feed, an events calendar are all great for building a credible reputation for your business. Maybe you’ve attended or sponsored some local events in the past. Let it be known. You could take it a step further with video interviews of the staff and the company’s leaders.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 8.41.23 AM
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym

 

5. News. If your business has been featured in local news outlets or received an awesome award from the town or the industry, show it off. Again, this builds trust and a credible reputation.

Joans
Joan’s on Third

 

Keeping things local isn’t just for cool points anymore. Locality now plays a big role in adding to your company’s value—both to customers and to search engines. In a competitive environment where you’re constantly looking for a new means to stand out, gearing your webpages to your local audience with location-relevant content is one more way to give your business that extra edge.