3 Actionable Small Business Tips For The COVID-19 Pandemic

Social distancing may be the new norm, but here are three actionable tips your small businesses can do to help mitigate the isolation effect on your bottom line.

FREE Expert Small Business Marketing Analysis & Tips

If you’re not rocking your small business marketing on the local level this marketing and analysis report is for you.

Optimizing Your Online Shop For Mobile Devices

Recently Updated For 2020 On: February 12, 2020 | Originally Published On: March 8, 2015

In 2020 Mobile eCommerce is still growing rapidly. In 2019, reports indicated that roughly 45% of all retail commerce sales were via mobile. By 2021, mobile eCommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of all commerce sales.

Considering these staggering statistics, eCommerce shops can’t afford to neglect the mobile experience of their online shops. For the last several years ourselves, we’ve adopted a “mobile first” approach when developing and designing eCommerce shops for our own clients.

The phrase mobile commerce was originally coined in 1997 by Kevin Duffey at the launch of the Global Mobile Commerce Forum, to mean “the delivery of electronic commerce capabilities directly into the consumer’s hand, anywhere, via wireless technology. Many choose to think of Mobile Commerce as meaning “a retail outlet in your customer’s pocket.”

The trend presents significant challenges and opportunities for retailers. Optimizing eCommerce shops for an optimal mobile experience and finding new ways to reach and engage customers on their phones and tablets is no longer an option if you want to succeed online. If your online shop doesn’t serve up a fast and flawless shopping experience… you’re in trouble these days.

image-of-mobile-page-speed-impacts-ecommerce-latest-industry-benchmarks-georgia-web-development

Benchmarks mobile page load speed times on eCommerce shops and its impact on users leaving the site. (Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2018)

53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

As a first step in engaging mobile customers, make sure your online shop site is optimized for a variety of mobile devices. Make it a priority to continually re-evaluate your end-to-end mobile device shopping experience to accommodate your eCommerce sites’ visitors ever changing needs and behaviors.

  • Does your shop load in 3 seconds or less on mobile devices? Test Your Shop Pages For Mobile Speed Here
  • Are your mobile device interface (menus & buttons) intuitive?
  • Are images and pull-down menus re-sizing correctly?
  • Is your mobile device search function easy to find and use?
  • Are ratings and reviews displaying prominently on mobile devices?
  • Is your Checkout optimized for mobile devices?
  • Are mobile device customers easily able to share products and purchases on their social networks?

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Insuring that your eCommerce website is optimized for all devices including PC, phones and tablets is a must in 2020. If you’re planning on launching your first online eCommerce website or you are updating your existing eCommerce website to optimize it for mobile devices we offer unparalleled assistance in approaching your eCommerce project.


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


Get Started With A Free eCommerce Website Consultation

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eCommerce Product SEO Tips For Online Shops

As an eCommerce store manager you’re looking at a couple of strategies to get your products and shop easily found online. You’ll need to improve your organic search rankings and/or invest in an effective ad campaign. A well planned, balanced combination of the two is typically what I recommend to most clients.

From an economical perspective the search engine optimization (SEO) option is going to be less expensive over the long term. A properly initiated paid ad strategy will get you traffic and likely generate sales but you can’t afford to neglect the organic (non-paid) traffic that results from good product SEO. This is why striking a healthy balance between the two strategies usually works best.

Proper SEO for an online shop will focus heavily on your products. Your customers are searching online for the products they’re looking for. This is your opportunity to capitalize on the search terms/phrases that are directly related to your products and that customers are likely using in their online searches. For your products to show up well in their search results, your product pages need to be built with these specific optimized keywords and search phrases in mind.

Strengthen Local SEO

Regardless of whether you have a physical store or sell exclusively online, your business will benefit from utilizing both Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings. There are options within both listings that will allow you to hide your physical address (business location address) if you sell only online. Claim and complete your Google My Business listing and complete the verification steps. Claim and complete your Bing Places for Business listing and complete the verification steps.

Don’t stop there once you’re verified. You’ll want to insure your online shop web address (URL) is linked to the profiles appropriately as well. Important information like phone, hours of operation and business description information need to be entered accurately as well. You’ll want to revisit these valuable assets frequently so you can take full advantage of the exposure they’ll offer your online shop. You can even post photos of your products and list special offers as well.

Leverage Product Reviews

You’ve likely noticed how product reviews often show up in search results when searching online yourself. Not only do these reviews influence buying decisions but they can often impact which online shops search engines chose to display for specific searches. Having visible product reviews also makes online shoppers more likely to visit your website and purchase from you.

Don’t be shy about allowing reviews for your products out of fear of getting a less than stellar review. Unfortunately those can and do happen even to the best of retailers. Always respond appropriately, professionally and do your best to make things right if you do get a less than favorable review. Transparency goes a long way and most prospective buyers will still appreciate any shop that does it’s best to satisfy its customers.

The eCommerce shops that we develop and design for our clients all offer product review functionality along with options on how and where to display the reviews. Some are even automated, sending an email to the purchaser at a specified time interval after purchase asking that they leave a review. These work great and even better when using review incentives like reward coupons to use on their next purchase.

product-ecommerce-seo-image-of-search-snippet-showing-user-reviews--sample-georgia-web-development

Example of how google reviews are displayed in the search snippet.

Google My Business reviews and your own online shop reviews are a great place to start when it comes to collecting reviews. Google reviews will also help to leverage your online shop’s organic placement in search. You may have noticed this when searching online yourself for products or services. You’ll see their star rating system at work. The product reviews on your website that properly utilize schema markup can also help your product page search rankings.

Optimize Your Product H1 Tags

The h1 to h6 tags are used to define HTML headings. Your h1 defines the most important heading while your h6 defines the least important heading. Contrary to a popular misunderstanding, these title tags are not to be used solely for styling purposes. Sure they change the font size and also make the text easier to read which is very important for your visitors but they also serve a couple of other critical purposes (covered below). The use and tweaks to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow web developers/designers to take standard heading tags and make adjustments to (color, font style, & font size). Don’t use your heading tags for styling purposes!

Heading structure is important for accessibility. For the visually impaired or blind who can’t read from a screen, a screen reader can understand the product text structure and read it out loud with properly implemented heading tags. Whether or not a distinct SEO advantage is to be derived from effectively using heading tags nowadays is a source of some debate. However proper usage of the H1 tag can only benefit your online shop and site visitors. Proper usage of the heading tags also adds value and clarity to the architecture of your content. You should only have one H1 title tag present on any product page.

Keep your product titles (H1’s) to 50-60 characters long or less. This prevents them from getting truncated in the search results. Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of an H1 title tag. You’ll want to create descriptive, (unique if possible) product titles as well. If you’re like a lot of clients we service and obtain product titles and descriptions from suppliers you’ll want to change these up somewhat. Use relevant product titles that clearly describe your product rather than attempting to stuff keywords. You can and should utilize keywords in your product titles when it makes sense but don’t force them into the product titles when it doesn’t fit and flow naturally in the text.

Optimize Your Product Descriptions

You’ll want to add proper, unique descriptions to your products. Craft your product descriptions with your shoppers in mind first and foremost, not search engines. More often than not what’s good for your shop’s visitors is also good for search engines. Search engines are designed to help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for. As long as your product descriptions align with this principle, you’re on the right track.

Add proper, unique and accurate descriptions of your products. If you don’t manufacture your products and rely on a supplier this shouldn’t be the same descriptions the manufacturer or supplier uses. Those same exact descriptions are likely used on other eCommerce shops all across the web. They’ll be considered duplicate content on the web and a sign of low quality for your online store (to Google and the other search engines). You’ll want to avoid duplicate content issues caused by simply copying and using the manufacturer and supplier descriptions.

It’s next to impossible to craft informative, accurate descriptions of a product unless you understand that product well. Limited knowledge of a product usually results in vague descriptions being used and ones that aren’t very helpful for your online shoppers. Strive to only use unique, descriptive content in your product descriptions that will actually help your customers in making their purchasing decisions. Be specific and accurate with your product descriptions. The more specific you are in your descriptions, the easier it is for your online shoppers to find the products they’re searching for.

While you’ll want to nail the features in your product descriptions you can’t afford to neglect the all important “benefits” of your products. Benefits describe how your product’s features will work for your buyer. The benefits specifically address the question of how your product will improve their lives. Using benefits wisely in your product descriptions is very helpful for your audience and will also serve to encourage the sale. Adding product benefits makes your product descriptions relevant to the buyer.

Examples of the types of information to include in your product descriptions:

  • Benefits
  • Size
  • Material
  • Special Features
  • Technical Specifications
  • Design (shoppers often search for very specific visual terms like “Black Stainless Steel Tool Box”)
  • Variations (list product defining details like color, size, pattern, or material)

Ideally you’ll want to list the most important details in the first 160 – 500 characters. Be sure to include your product’s most important features, benefits and visual attributes.

Meta Titles

product-ecommerce-seo-image-of-search-snippet-showing-meta-title-and-meta-description-sample-georgia-web-development

Example of how SEO Meta Titles & SEO Meta descriptions appear in the search snippet.

While your product titles will and should always appear as an H1 heading, many eCommerce platforms like the ones we build for our clients also utilize various SEO modules and SEO plugins that allow for editing and improving your SEO (Meta Title). It’s worth mentioning that your SEO (Meta Title) doesn’t have the same purpose as your product title (H1). Your product title (H1) is meant for people that are already on your online shop viewing it. It’s telling them the title of your product (the readable title on the product page).

Your SEO (Meta Title) on the other hand, is meant for people who are not on your website yet. It’s what’s shown to people in the search engines. It’s the title of your snippet in Google and other search engines. That’s why it’s also a very important component in good product SEO. The purpose of your SEO (Meta Title) is to encourage people to click or tap the search snippet, visit your online shop and ideally purchase your product(s).

Meta Descriptions

Your meta “product description” can be any length you want. Just keep in mind that Google and most search engines typically only show around 160 characters of the meta description in the search results. Your SEO (Meta Description) doesn’t have the same purpose as your on page product description either. Your on page product description is meant for people that are already on your online shop viewing it. It’s telling them the description of your product in all its glory (the readable description on the product page). Just like your SEO (Meta Title), the purpose of your SEO (Meta Description) is to quickly inform and encourage people to click or tap the search snippet, visit your online shop and ideally purchase your product(s).

Add well crafted meta descriptions to your products. Typically the product page contains a lot of general product specific information. To discourage search engines from simply using that text in a product description in search results, you want to add SEO (Meta Description) to your product pages. Ideally, no two of your product meta descriptions will be the same.

While meta descriptions can be any length, keep in mind that Google and other search engines generally truncate product description snippets at 155–160 characters. Keep your product meta descriptions long enough to be descriptive with your main goal being to provide descriptive value to the search snippet and also encouraging for online shoppers to click or tap.

Closing

While we’ve covered a lot of ground on the basics of good product SEO with this article, I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re serious about optimizing your online shop’s product pages and need help, you can reach out and take advantage of our evaluation audit for your online shop’s product SEO.

To truly maximize your online shop’s reach don’t focus solely on just the regular SEO and user experience. You’re going to need to dig a little deeper into the other important aspects of the product pages of your online shop. For instance, add product and offer schema. This equips Google to index all of the details about your product and then show these as rich results in search results. You can add a Google Merchant Product Data Feed and even get your products with images showing in results and ads.

eCommerce Product SEO Consultation & Project Quote

Let us help you boost your eCommerce shop with a quick and easy evaluation of your online shop’s product SEO. Simply use the form on the bottom of this page to send us your eCommerce product SEO questions or request your eCommerce evaluation audit for your online shop’s product SEO. You can even include a phone number (optional) and we’ll call you. Be sure to check out my eCommerce costs guide if you’re new to eCommerce and looking to launch your own eCommerce shop.

Best wishes on your eCommerce venture!


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


Request An eCommerce Product SEO Consultation or Shop Audit

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Understanding How Online Shoppers Decide Where To Shop Online

“Add To Cart”… What Really Encourages Your eCommerce Shop Visitors To Click It?

The vast majority of online shoppers tend to identify as “deal seekers”: Price point is usually the most important purchase consideration with free shipping right behind it.

What influences consumers when deciding to buy online?

The ranked list below is based on data collected as recently as October, 2018 by Google/Kantar TNS, Global and is taken from online shopping preferences from a pool of 1,500 frequent online consumers ages 18–64 who made a purchase in the past 6 months. The list is ranked in order of most important reason(s) for buying online and selecting which shop online to purchase from.

  1. Lowest price for item
  2. Free shipping
  3. Sale, discount, or promo
  4. Product availability
  5. Product specs (like, battery life)
  6. Customer item reviews
  7. Fast delivery
  8. Estimated delivery date and time
  9. Cross-store price comparison

What’s The Quick Takeaway From The List Above?

Selective Competitive Product Pricing

Highlight your competitive pricing when applicable. You can’t always beat the competition on pricing, especially if you’re a smaller player in the market but you can on some items occasionally. I often encourage our eCommerce clients with new shops online to simply pick a few products and prepare to only break even on them for a specified time period. Use those handful of products to entice that first sale and successful interaction with your eCommerce website. It’s a fair trade-off oftentimes as your customers will likely return for more purchases over time providing you exceed their expectations and deliver accordingly. When you are able to beat the competition on pricing, make sure you make it known. Use applicable “Sale”, “Special”, or “Discount” flags and icons on your product pages (see example screenshot below of how we do this on one of our client shops).

example of ecommerce sale pricing

example of ecommerce sale pricing on client website

Free Shipping Is A Must If You Can Pull It Off

Some heavy or over-sized products make offering free shipping on your site difficult or next to impossible.  However many products offered can be maximized by offering free shipping. Your best bet is to aim for fast and free shipping when you can. Look for ways to recoup any lost shipping expenses within the product pricing itself. The reality is that online shoppers are motivated by both free and fast shipping.

Improve Your Digital Shopping Experience On Your eCommerce Website

Let us help you boost your eCommerce shop with a quick and easy evaluation of your retail website. Simply use the form on the bottom of this page to send us your eCommerce website questions or request a FREE eCommerce project proposal. You can even include a phone number (optional) and we’ll call you. Be sure to check out my eCommerce costs guide if you’re new to eCommerce and looking to launch your own eCommerce shop.

With more than a decade of eCommerce development and design experience, we know first hand the many challenges and decisions that you’ll face along the way to establishing a successful  eCommerce presence on the web. We’re here to offer our free expert advice and eCommerce industry knowledge without any fancy sales pitches thrown in (we promise).

Best wishes on your eCommerce venture!


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


Get Started With A Free eCommerce Website Consultation

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5 Obstacles To B2B eCommerce Success

During the past few years eCommerce has drastically impacted the way B2B (business to business) businesses operate. The once familiar landscape of customer acquisition, customer retention, sales, service, support and order fulfillment has been permanently altered. In our experience gleaned from more than a decade of designing and developing B2B eCommerce websites across various industries I’ve compiled a list of 5 common obstacles to B2B eCommerce success.

1. CHOOSING THE WRONG ECOMMERCE WEB DEVELOPER OR AGENCY

B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) eCommerce projects can be different animals altogether. More often than not with B2B eCommerce you’ll need a much more customized shopping, checkout and customer relationship management experience on the site at minimal. If you’re like many B2B clients we service you’ll likely even require more advanced eCommerce capabilities such as price quote request features and/or purchase order management along with the ability to assign custom pricing rules based on the discount you assign to specific customer groups.

Custom features like “percent off discounts” based on volume purchases would also fall into this customization requirement as those features can be quite common for B2B eCommerce sites. In fact if you want to truly set your B2B eCommerce site up for success you’re going to want to customize it based off of your own unique business model while at the same time simplifying the user experience. At Georgia Web Development we’ve been successfully developing and designing B2B eCommerce websites for more than a decade now.

Do your homework when choosing your B2B eCommerce developer or agency. Do they have a portfolio on their own website that you can view and one that links to active and working B2B eCommerce sites that they’ve developed, designed and launched for their clients? They shouldn’t hesitate to provide you with references upon request of previous and existing clients as well.

Seldom does a complex B2B eCommerce project not require close collaboration and partnership with other software vendors and related agencies but if quality and communication is important for your project (it should be) you may want to insure that the work isn’t being outsourced overseas. At Georgia Web Development we take great pride in keeping all of our eCommerce development and design work in-house in the USA.

2. NOT CONSIDERING SITE INTEGRATION NEEDS

You can’t afford to ignore the integration needs of your B2B eCommerce website. While your eCommerce shop typically only accounts for the front-end needs of your businesses there’s more that happens after an order is placed right? Sure there is! Manually entering data is time consuming, error prone, and simply isn’t scalable. Your eCommerce site should integrate seamlessly with your other business systems like accounting, shipping and marketing to automate the syncing of information like customers, inventory, pricing and shipping between systems.

From QuickBooks and other accounting software to UPS, FEDex, USPS and other commonly used business software, Georgia Web Development can integrate your business systems directly into your B2B eCommerce system. This insures the minimal of manual entry processes that would need to be completed outside of your B2B eCommerce website. Efficiency while maintaining accuracy is the goal of any well developed and well designed eCommerce system. Yours should not be any different.

3. IGNORING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Bad B2B eCommerce stores are plentiful on the web today. From poor user experience, slow site speed, to horrible viewing and usage on mobile devices. With consumer expectations influenced by the more modern B2C eCommerce shops, the traditional B2B eCommerce stores should take heed.

At minimal your B2B eCommerce shop should offer similar, if not better, experience as any B2C eCommerce website out there. This includes features like custom pricing, product recommendations, order history display and ease of reordering based on past purchases etc.

4.THIN OR NOT ENOUGH CONTENT

Content is king when it comes to eCommerce. To do well with your B2B eCommerce website I can’t encourage you enough to go above and beyond the traditional text and basic image content. Just like B2C the B2B eCommerce marketplace is extremely competitive. You’ll want to make sure you capitalize with great content. This includes relevant articles and educational resources, high quality product images along with well written product descriptions and product meta information.

This means taking the time to either write great content and product descriptions yourself or being prepared to pay for a professional to help you with all of that. Either way it’s a critical piece of the whole B2B eCommerce equation and you can’t afford not to do well with your content.

5. NEGLECTING SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO will be one of the most critical aspects of your B2B eCommerce website. Contrary to what most SEO experts would like you to believe, great SEO is not rocket science nor is it shrouded in mystery. It is indeed work, purposeful educated work at that. But you need not spend a ton of money nor should you necessarily need to go hire a so-called SEO expert to have it done right. Any experienced eCommerce website developer or designer worth their weight in salt will set your site up for success at the outset. Once you’re set up correctly following SEO best practices across the site you most certainly can continue to work on developing and/or refining the SEO even more.

Great basic SEO involves using both accurate and good keywords in your landing and product pages, accurate and descriptive page titles, appropriate use of HTML tags, including Meta content, using alt attribute for images, and obviously a bit more. Write your content for the humans that will be using your site and not the SEO robots. I can’t emphasize this point enough.

FREE B2B eCommerce Website Consultation & Project Quote

Simply use the form on the bottom of this page to send us your B2B eCommerce website questions or request a FREE eCommerce project proposal. You can even include a phone number (optional) and we’ll call you. In regards to projecting the costs associated with your B2B eCommerce website be sure to check out my eCommerce costs guide. Although it’s geared more towards B2C eCommerce many of the same principles and pointers will still apply to your project as well.

At Georgia Web Development we know first hand the many challenges and decisions that you’ll face along the way to establishing a successful B2B eCommerce presence on the web. From choosing the right eCommerce website hosting provider to deciding on the best eCommerce platform we’re here to offer our free expert advice and eCommerce industry knowledge without any fancy sales pitches thrown in (we promise).

Best wishes on your B2B eCommerce venture!


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


Get Started With A Free eCommerce Website Consultation

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Website Maintenance… It’s Critical

I’ve developed, designed, and built a lot of websites since I first started back in 2009. Lots of things have changed on the web since then but one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for regular site updates and maintenance. WordPress, WooCommerce, Magneto, and even static HTML and CSS sites will all require routine updates and maintenance. Typically at the outset of a new website project when you’re calculating the total cost of your website you’ll have allocated a budget for ongoing maintenance and support.

As the web evolves so do security vulnerabilities and bugs in the code. Not keeping your website or eCommerce shop well maintained and up to date is a recipe for disaster. It may be working fine today but if you’re not running updates and keeping things neat and tidy on the back-end… the clock of brokenness is ticking my friend. Most CMS (Content Management Systems) like WordPress and Magento routinely roll out updates to their software. While these updates (when applied correctly) usually go off without a hitch… sometimes they don’t.

I can’t count the times personally I have wound up with a broken website after applying a seemingly simple and straightforward update. Fortunately for me web is what I do and being a code guy I can very quickly pinpoint the issue and fix it. If it’s something that’s going to take some time to resolve I can always revert to my backup and keep my website or my client’s website online until the issue is resolved.

For the sake of brevity let me just emphasize that routine website maintenance and updates are critical to the health and success of your website or online shop. If your not necessarily a little tech savvy or somewhat familiar with WordPress, Magneto, WooCommerce, or even plain HTML these routine updates and maintenance tasks can seem a bit daunting. Not to mention the surprise you may have found yourself in if (like many) you didn’t initially figure in things like ongoing maintenance and support when researching the long-term costs of your eCommerce shop.

We just launched what I assert is the most reliable and economical WordPress Website Support + Maintenance Package, Magento eCommerce Shop Support + Maintenance Package and WooCommerce Shop Support + Maintenance Package available anywhere.

Wouldn’t it be reassuring to know you have a professional website developer on tap should something go horribly wrong when you click that “update button”? Maybe like the vast majority of website owners you simply and honestly just don’t have the time nor tech skills to keep your website or eCommerce shop updated and maintained?

Is Your Website Being Neglected?

Is Your Website Being Neglected?

What if you discovered that you could easily afford a website developer to do all the heavy lifting for you? The only thing then you’d need to focus on would be growing your business and you could then leave the mundane website updates and maintenance tasks to an expert. Sure you could still manage your website and add content anyway you deem fit but you’d rest assured knowing that everything’s running smoothly under the hood so to speak.

Reliable and professional website maintenance and support for your website or online shop may not be as expensive as you think. It can however prove to be very expensive to not have it in place should disaster strike. The WordPress Website Maintenance + Support Package and WooCommerce Shop Maintenance and Support Package I began offering my own web clients early on is in my honest opinion (and many other’s) the best value in the industry right now. Both are robust base packages that also allow additional design/development hours to be purchased when needed at a fraction of what most agencies now bill hourly for WordPress and WooCommerce web development and web design.

Very soon we’ll be introducing our big boy, “The Magneto eCommerce Maintenance & Support Package“. We’re going to put more than a decade of Magento development and design experience up for grabs and shake up the Magento work-space somewhat with a very reasonably priced package. It’ll be a plan that the average entrepreneur can easily afford.

Want to discuss your website update and maintenance needs with a professional? Use the simple form below and lets get the conversation started.

Get Started With A FREE Website Maintenance / Update Plan Consultation


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


 

The Power of FOCUS – How Multitasking Actually Sabotages Your Productivity & Creativity

As a small business entrepreneur since age 21, a single dad of three young boys, and a typically wide-open website designer and web developer I’ve learned firsthand that the skill of focusing is critical when it comes to being both productive and successful.

Often overlooked and more frequently downplayed by popular corporate culture, focus is the trump card in any successful entrepreneur’s playing hand. Although it’s more often than not devalued by the widely popular multitask productivity myth, focus is in fact the real and legitimate parent of accomplishment.

Why is focus such an important factor to getting work and other tasks accomplished? Obviously if you’re having issues with focus, then you’re not going to be very productive or creative. If focus isn’t present your likely not getting much productive work done anyways.  Your creative juices begin to dry up and you become stuck in a productivity rut or even worse you’re regressing and falling further and further behind with important tasks at hand.

Multitasking vs. Focus (Being In The Zone) – A Popular Productivity Myth Debunked

Despite what the ever popular corporate culture wants us to believe, we as human beings are not wired up for multitasking. Multitasking indeed has its place but it’s not at the forefront of exemplary productivity and creativity. Performance wise we are at our peak when we’re focused. When we’re really focused and we’re leveraging our skills, creativity, and talents in a process that is challenging it becomes fertile ground for operating in a peak performance state known as “flow” or “being in the zone”.

We all can relate to the feeling of having your skill set completely match the challenge at hand to the point that you lose yourself in what you are doing. It’s akin to a relaxed state of complete concentration and absorption where you become ‘one’ with the task at hand – your sense of time is diminished or even nonexistent, any sense of nervousness or anxiety completely diminishes and trivial thoughts not related to the task at hand evaporate on the spot.

Moving From Scatter Brained To Laser Focused FLOW

So… how do you actually get and even more importantly stay focused? What are some practical ways to get this abstract notion of “flow” or “being in the zone” to show up in your life? Here are a few simple pointers that you can begin implementing immediately. The key to nurturing focus and becoming more productive has everything to do with eliminating or at least minimizing distractions. Ask yourself what are your distractions? What keeps you from being focused?

Make A Distractions List

Take just a few minutes and with pen and paper jot down five of your major distractions. What are five things that are keeping you distracted in whatever area of life you want to achieve more focus in? What’s distracting you at work? Is it a troublesome client who makes it a habit of consistently dropping by your office unexpectedly and without appointment? Is it a friend or significant other who calls or texts and disturbs you every ten minutes? Is it a barrage of emails? Is it your Facebook notifications that keep pinging you on the hour? You need to get very clear and honest with yourself about what’s really distracting you.

I’ll venture to bet that once you get your distractions identified on paper, that what you’ll find is that one of the biggest culprits to your ability to focus is multitasking. You’re attempting to do multiple things at once.

The Laser Focus Analogy

All of your distractions are the antithesis of focus. When you’re attempting to do several things at once, you are by definition not focused. You are dividing your focus and attention. When you divide or diffuse your attention, it’s the exact opposite of the phenomenon that makes a laser work so well.

A laser differs from other sources of light in that it emits light coherently. This phenomenon known as “Spatial Coherence” allows a laser to be focused to a tight spot, enabling applications such as laser cutting and lithography. Spatial coherence also allows a laser beam to stay narrow over great distances (collimation), enabling applications such as laser pointers.

Many principles that underlie phenomenon are applicable when applied to different scenarios and contexts. Likewise this same principle applies when it comes to our attention. When it’s scattered and not focused it becomes much less effective. If you want success in your career, your business, a relationship or essentially in any endeavor, you should put your focused attention on it. Your undivided attention has to be focused on whatever it is you’re doing if you expect anything worthwhile to come from your efforts. You can’t do that effectively if you’re always trying to multitask. Make no mistake about it multitasking and the “being busy feeling” that it often engenders in us is just that… a feeling. It’s a productivity illusion if there ever was one.

Feeling busy is by no means a good indicator of actual productivity. For further proof of this fallacy in assumption just look back at your greatest achievements and creative moments. I’ll bet when you analyse them honestly you’ll discover it’s the exact opposite. You didn’t feel busy at all. More than likely you were in flow. You were relaxed. You were in the zone and even the concept of “being busy” would have been foreign to your thought stream. You may have appeared busy to an onlooker but on the inside you were actually effortlessly dancing on the cusps of grace.

Make no mistake about it multitasking and the “being busy feeling” that it often engenders in us is just that… a feeling. It’s a productivity illusion if there ever was one.

Introducing Working In Block Time – The ZEN of Great Productivity

To work in Block Time you’ve got to basically set off sixty to ninety minute blocks throughout your day. These are blocks where you sit down and work on a single task and you do nothing else. You don’t let yourself get distracted by anything. You don’t let yourself get up and do other things. You focus on that one task at hand. You stop attempting to do multiple tasks at the same time. It’s a very simple yet powerful concept. Regular breaks are conducive to greater productivity and concentration. When implementing working in Block Time, schedule regular breaks in between activities. For example, focus intensely for 2 hours on a specific task, take a 10- or 15-minute break and work for another 2-hour block of time.

Don’t just take my word for it. Experiment with using Block Time yourself and watch both your productivity and creativity skyrocket. You’ll want to limit activities that interfere with your Block Time goals. Eliminate unproductive, time-consuming activities. During the block of time allotted to working, avoid unnecessary web and social media browsing, television watching, or texting. Devote your undivided attention to the high priority task at hand. You’ll also want to avoid checking email or answering the phone (unless it’s the specific task assigned for your Block Time).

Focus your full attention only on the task that you blocked off the time to work on. Your calls can go to voicemail. The emails can wait. The 5th Selfie your friend posted this week on Facebook can wait. You can let others know that you will be unavailable during this time. If you’re working at home, explain your strategy to your family so they won’t likely interrupt you. If you’re in an office setting, limit interruptions from co-workers or supervisors as best you can.

When you begin to work in this way and you’re super focused what you’re going to discover is that you get somewhat exhausted after each time block. You’ve actually put a tremendous amount of mental energy into the task you were working on. It’s imperative to give yourself a little bit of a break after each block. Ten to fifteen minutes minimum should be sufficient for most. That’s where you can go get a snack, grab a coffee, chat with your friends, take a walk outside, or even log onto Facebook and begrudgingly LIKE that 5th Selfie your friend just posted.

Fifteen minutes or so later, you’ll return and start on your next Block Time task. Be careful not to make the blocks too long either. If they are too long you’re going to get exhausted and this will actually end up being counterproductive. Sixty to ninety minute Block Times will be ideal for most. Basically you’ll have your day broken into these Block Times so that you’re focusing on one single task at a time.

Drop The Multitasking Mindset

As you develop a discipline for working in Block Time what you’ll find is that you’re really preventing yourself from unconsciously multitasking. You’ll be getting tasks completed much more efficiently and your creativity will be enthused with a new energy. People usually think their work and productivity are tied to the amount of time they put in. That assumption is not entirely true.

In reality productivity is more related to focus and the quality of the energy you’re putting into the task at hand. Who among us can’t identify with a task that should take 30 minutes actually taking hours to complete? Usually this happens when we’re doing many different things (multitasking) simultaneously while trying to complete a single important task.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that it can take upwards of 10 to 15 minutes to get your attention back on track after being distracted. This becomes even more of an issue if you’re doing creative or highly technical types of work. Those 10 to 15 minutes it will take you to get back into flow is time that is irretrievably lost.

Lately, I’ve been working on implementing the use of Block Time in managing my own web development company and the results of doing so are nothing less than amazing. At first it definitely felt counter-intuitive for me. Like so many among us I had unconsciously subscribed to the popular corporate culture which touts multitasking as a great asset. If you were good at multitasking it meant that you were not only flexible but valuable as an employee. In all honesty what they should have actually told us was that they were happy that we were willing to do more for less and that it was both convenient and profitable to have someone willing to routinely take on tasks outside of the job description.

I typically have as many as 7-10 different active web projects going on at any one given time. The natural inclination is to bounce back and forth on the different projects all throughout the course of a work day. I actually worked like this for years not knowing there was a better way. What I’ve discovered is that by assigning Block Time for each project during the course of my work day I tend to not only be more productive but the creativity that’s essential in my field is never lacking.

Give the Block Time practice a shot. I think you’ll find that you’re going to be not only more focused but in “the zone” a lot more often. Your productivity will improve tremendously and perhaps even more importantly you’ll feel a lot happier and less stressed.


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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


HTTPS By Default – Going Green With Site-Wide SSL

Back in 2015 on our Georgia Web Development website we made the switch to full site-wide SSL by default. We even took it a step further and implemented what is known as “Force SSL”. Force SSL utilizes code that automatically redirects all non-secure HTTP requests to the respective secure HTTPS URL. Like it’s name implies, force SSL forces all browser communication with the website to occur over a secure, encrypted connection.

While there are a number of ways to implement Forced SSL on entire websites or even single pages we won’t be going into those options here. Instead I’ll stick with the title of the article and attempt to make the case for why moving to HTTPS site-wide by default not only makes sense but should be the new standard for both webmasters and website owners in 2020.

Back in early 2015 Georgia Web Development began implementing site-wide SSL with all of our new eCommerce Starter Package Websites that we developed, designed and launched for our clients. Obviously we were already implementing SSL on cart, checkout, and forms submissions but it made sense to finally adopt and embrace the site-wide SSL by default approach. We went a step further not long after that and very soon began making site-wide SSL the default for all of our new Basic Website Starter Packages as well moving forward.

We’re thoroughly convinced through our own experience, testing, and working knowledge of deploying Site-Wide SSL that it’s benefits far outweigh any arguments against using it.

 

SSL/HTTPS – What Is It?

The infamous “Green Padlock” denotes a valid SSL connection using encryption.

 

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This secure link ensures that all data that passes between the web server and browser remains private and integral. Usually when data is transmitted between browsers and web servers (HTTP) it’s done using plain text.

This transmission in plain text leaves the connection open and vulnerable to what is known as eavesdropping. If an attacker or eavesdropper is able to intercept the data being sent between a browser and a web server that’s using plain text transmission then the information can been seen and used.

On the other hand when using a Secure SSL Connection the sessions don’t use plain text transmission. SSL or HTTPS sessions are established using the following technique:

 

  1. The user’s Web Browser contacts the server via a secure URL (HTTPS://)
  2. The Server then responds by transmitting to the the browser it’s public key and a server certificate.
  3. The client’s browser and server then negotiate the level of encryption to use for the secure communications.
  4. The client’s browser encrypts a session key with the server’s public key and then sends the encrypted data back to the server.
  5. The Server then decrypts the message sent by the client’s browser using its private key, and a secure session is established.
  6. Both the client and the server use the session key to encrypt and decrypt the transmitted data.

 

Google I/O 2014 – HTTPS Everywhere

On June 25th, 2014 at Google I/O 2014, Google’s Pierre Far and Ilya Grigorik made their presentation calling for HTTPS Everywhere. In summary they reminded all of us that data delivered over an unencrypted channel is insecure, untrustworthy, and is easily intercepted. They also reminded webmasters and website owners of the importance of  protecting the security, privacy, and integrity of user data. Google I/O is an annual software developer-focused conference held by Google in San Francisco, California. Google I/O features highly technical, in-depth sessions focused on building web, mobile, and enterprise applications with Google and open web technologies such as Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Google APIs, Google Web Toolkit, App Engine, and more.

Benefits of Implementing Site-Wide SSL

  • Gain Your Site Visitors’  Trust
  • Protecting The Security, Privacy, and Integrity of User Data
  • Encrypt Information So That It Can Only Be Read and Understood By The Intended Parties
  • Added Brand Power
  • Guard Against Phishing Attacks
  • Marginal Boost In Search Engine Rankings Vs. Non-SSL Sites Being Returned In Relevant Search Queries (Implementing site-wide SSL on your website is not a predominant SEO Factor. It’s only a very small piece of the whole SEO equation.)

While much more can be and has been written about the benefits of implementing Site-Wide SSL hopefully this short article scratches the surface a bit and helps to make the case for going green with Site-Wide SSL the new default for webmasters and website owners.

FREE HTTPS – SSL Project  Consultations

Simply use the form on the bottom of this page to send us your SSL or HTTPS related questions.

From help choosing the right type of SSL Certificate for your website to helping you properly 301 redirect to your new SSL pages we’re here to offer our free expert advice without any fancy sales pitches thrown in (we promise).

FREE HTTPS – SSL Project Consultations

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Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.


 

Agriculture & Websites… The Not So Odd Couple

National Ag Day is celebrated on March 24, 2020 during National Ag Week, March 22-28, 2020. It’s a time when producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America gather to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture.

We’d like to not only recognize the abundance provided by American agriculture but make mention of the significant role that modern web technology has and continues to play in the agricultural industry. A farmer in the field with tablet in hand is no longer a strange sight these days and a 100+ year old Georgia Pecan Farm with a bustling eCommerce website is a definite sign of the times.

We’ve been tasked in the past few years with building several agriculture industry based websites. It’s a great feeling and an honor bringing the latest website technology to the Ag industry.

We believe we’re helping farmers, consumers, and Ag industry manufacturers bridge the technology gap with modern websites, eCommerce and web technology. It’s from this firsthand experience that we can now say with certainty, agriculture and websites are no longer an odd couple.

National Ag day is the day for producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America gather to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture. As we’re confronted with the outbreak of COVID-19, there is even greater demand for the food, fiber and renewable resources produced in the United States.

 

The National Ag Day program believes that every American should:

  1. Understand how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced.
  2. Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  3. Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
  4. Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industries.

A few generations ago, most Americans were directly involved in or had relatives or friends involved in agricultural-related endeavors. Today, that is no longer the case. It’s important that we join together at the community level. Voices, in concert, become a shout that carries the message a great deal further than any one of us can do alone.

There are over seven billion people in the world today. That’s over seven billion mouths to feed every day. Show your appreciation for the individuals that make this feat possible on Ag Day.


senior-website-developer-website-designer-mark-d-hulett-georgia-web-development-get
Mark D. Hulett is the senior eCommerce website developer & designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce, website development and website design spans more than a decade.