The Password is PASSWORD

                     Highlights from the last few months in cyber-chaos

cyber security, password

  • April, 2014 – The “Heartbleed Bug” strikes, affecting as many as 500,000 websites.
  • November, 2014 – Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by person/persons unknown; leads to a complete and total meltdown in Hollywood,  forcing people in the “biz” to actually pick up a phone and talk to their cubicle mate and for the rest of us to stream a bro-stick comedy over Christmas that we all probably would have been better off waiting for on Netflix.
  • December, 2014 – North Korea’s Internet service undergoes a “DDOS attack” (distributed denial of-service) by person/persons unknown.
  • January, 2015 – US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked by Islamic State sympathizers
  • Retailers such as Target, Neimann Marcus, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, PF Changs, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A – ALL HACKED!!

A recent study found that 13.1 million U.S. adults are victims of fraud, with a total somewhere in the $18 billion range of fraudulent activity accounted for annually.  Earlier this month, President Obama proposed legislation that would encourage companies and government agencies to share information about security threats and vulnerabilities with each other.

Remember when you got that email from your bank, your social media website, your email server to change your password in the wake of Heartbleed. Did you actually do it? A Pew research study last year found that only 61% of those who knew about Heartbleed changed their passwords.

Just how lazy are we?

 A survey from 2012 by Research Now for CSID on password habits among American consumers found:

  • 61% of us reuse passwords across multiple websites.
  • 54% of us have 5 or fewer passwords for all of our internet usage.
  • 44% of us change our passwords once a year or less.
  • 89% of us feel secure with our current passwords and security habits.
  • 21% of us have had at least one online account compromised.

Splashdata’s annual list of most commonly used passwords found that “password” had been supplanted by the surely uncrackable“ 123456” as the most popular password of 2013.

 So what kind of passwords should we be using? 

The latest and greatest recommendations from cyber experts, including Blizzard’s own Hosting Manager, Tish Lockard, agree on the following guidelines for creating strong passwords:

  • A strong password should contain AT THE VERY LEAST 8 characters, combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols; there should be no inclusion of words found in the dictionary or the names of your friends and family.
  • Never use easy to discover dates like birthdays or anniversaries; you’d be surprised what is clearly visible on our personal and business social media pages these days.
  • You should have a unique password for all of your important accounts.
  • You should change your passwords every 90 days and not reuse them for different sites.

There are password generating sites that will create strong passwords for you. Tish says, “Can’t think of a good password? There are tools out there, such strongpasswordgenerator.com that will cook up a good one for you.  You can even decide the length of your password and what type of characters to use.  I use this Every. Single. Day.” Hear that? Every single day! I am listening Tish!  Some others generators  are random.org and freepasswordgenerator.com.

  How the B!33P am I supposed to remember that gobbledygook?

cyber security, heartbleed, passwords

Keep your Hello Kitty in a secure location, NOT near your computer!

How are you supposed to remember these nonsensical passwords? I know I have  been  loath to use passwords like those described above because there is no way I  am ever  going to remember them. Most security experts recommend the use of a password manager such as Dashlane.com, LastPass.com or 1Password.com which have apps that can go with you from your computer, phone and tablet. YES, you will have to have a password  for these heavily  encrypted secure sites, but if you can’t remember ONE goofy  password, well, maybe this  World Wide Web thing just isn’t your bag.

DO NOT store your passwords in a public cloud, in a Google doc, in emails that  can be  hacked, on your phone’s notepad app or maybe not even in that little spiral  Hello Kitty  notebook that you carry around with you everywhere unless you have really bad  handwriting.

According to Tish, “If everyone could make these criteria a priority and truly commit to changing their passwords regularly, there would be a lot less chaos in  the world. Well, ok, chaos caused by hackers, anyway.” If we listen to Tish, at  least we all can do a little something about this cyber chaos. The hacker free-chaos, Tish and I will endeavor to deal with that another time.

Whatever method you decide upon to have truly secure passwords, remain ever vigilant as you cruise along the world-wide-web. There are hackers around every bend and it’s up to you to keep an eye on your online accounts. And don’t forget that old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say in an email about someone, maybe just jot it down in your Hello Kitty notebook.

HTML and XML Sitemaps: Why You Need Both

A well designed map can help lead the way

 

In the SEO world, the use of sitemaps is always advisable. There are two types of  sitemaps, the XML sitemap and the HTML sitemap. These sitemaps are very different with each serving its own purpose and both providing value to your website.

What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemaps?

XML and HTML sitemaps are created for different purposes, but both can help increase traffic to your website and improve its usability.

 The XML sitemap

XML sitemaps are used by search engine spiders, also known as robots, bots or crawlers. Spiders “crawl”, or follow links throughout the Internet, finding content and adding it to search engine indexes.

An XML sitemap is a file containing all of the URLs on the website that you would like to be indexed in search engines. The XML sitemap also provides spiders with the following information:

  • Metadata for URLs
  • When the URLs were last updated
  • The importance of certain URLs
  • Average frequency of changes to URLs
  • URL relation to the rest of your website

Having an XML sitemap is crucial for the proper display of your site’s pages in search engines.

 The HTML sitemap

In simple terms, the HTML sitemap gives users an overview of your website. This can be helpful if you have pages that might be difficult to find. For example, if a user visits your homepage and is looking for a “contact us” page but can’t find the link for the page easily, the user may click on the “sitemap” page. There, the contact page may be accessed a simple click on a link.

An HTML sitemap helps users navigate your website and get to the pages or information they are seeking quickly.

The benefits of using both sitemaps

Having your XML sitemap functioning properly ensures that search engines are finding your site’s information and correctly listing it in search results. This may also often lead to better search engine positioning and send more visitors to your site.

Having a well thought out HTML sitemap improves your visitors’ experience and helps them find the pages or information they want quickly.

By using both sitemaps in combination, you are helping your SEO while increasing the likelihood of visitor retention and return visits to your site.

Announcing Our New VP Sales and Marketing!

ericwithgirls

Eric and his 3 daughters Celeste, Brooke and Audrey

Last month, here at Blizzard, we welcomed Eric Fullerton as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Eric has a very unique and diverse background in online marketing and technology implementation and we are so excited to have him here!

Eric’s expertise has helped many leading companies develop innovative solutions online which have lead to increases in business and enhanced ROI. For the past 13 years, Eric has worked in online marketing and eCommerce/web architecture for Aspen/Snowmass Resort, Stay Aspen Snowmass, Sport Obermeyer, and Ski.com.  Among other things, he also helped to improve the online presence for over 150 websites in hospitality and other industries.

You may recognize his name from a conference or workshop you’ve attended in the past.  He’s presented at numerous industry gatherings, including Search Engine Strategies in New York and Mountain Travel Symposium, the annual event for the ski industry.  He also co-produced the Partners in Group Sales conference for several years.  His engaging and entertaining presentations have earned him high regards amongst those in both the hospitality and SEO industries.

“I am very excited to be a part of this expert team at Blizzard Internet Marketing,” says Eric, “In the short time I have been here, it is clear that this company’s customer-centric values, service, and professionalism provide a high caliber of comprehensive marketing solutions for hotel, resort, vacation rental, and real estate companies in the US. I am confident that with our modern technology solutions coupled with our excellent reputation and visionary leadership we can go very far.”

Eric holds Bachelors degrees from UC Santa Cruz in philosophy and psychology and a MBA with an emphasis in Marketing/eCommerce from the University of Phoenix. We look forward to Eric sharing his vast knowledge and techniques to continue to push our client’s Online Marketing efforts to the next level.  His expertise and passion for marketing and technology will give us some extra edge!

Be sure to catch Eric at our upcoming Blizzard University on July 16 & 17th here in Glenwood Springs.   He will also be speaking at the national VRMA conference in Nashville and RezFest in Las Vegas this fall.  And if you can’t make it to the Workshop, be sure to keep an eye out for some of his great knowledge on our blog.  If you don’t run into him camping, hunting, hiking or skiing in the mountains, you can follow him here: www.linkedin.com/in/ericfullerton or on twitter: @ericjfullerton

 

Now You Can Watch A Full-Day Marketing Seminar from Your Desk

On Sunday October 9th, Trent Blizzard presented a full day online marketing seminar.  It was chock-full of timely and important marketing tips for travel marketers.

We are making the full video available on Monday October 31st.  You can order it for the small investment of $50.  It will be available “on-demand” so you can watch it at your desk and at your leisure.

Topics Included:

  • Google +1 is a promising new feature from Google that is still being developed.  Learn what it can do for you now and what strategies to implement in 2012 to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Custom Facebook Apps and Tabs: A review of the nifty, convenient and seductive world of Facebook custom tabs.  The real pros are using these to turn their Facebook page into a second website that can turn lookers into bookers.  Bonus: Blizzard will give each attendee a free Facebook App. ($250 value)*
  • Facebook Pay-Per-Click Marketing: Learn how to take advantage of Facebook’s PPC program to increase your ‘Likes’ and steal mind-share from your competitors.
  • Top Facebook Tips: The top 10 tips for getting new fans and engaging with your current ones.
  • Link Building is still going strong.  Learn about recent changes and how Google uses links in its algorithm. Bonus: Blizzard will give you 10 great links that will drive qualified traffic ($250 value)*
  • Website Load Time: Learn how your website’s speed… or slowness… is being factored into Google’s algorithm.  Find out how to measure your speed, track it in Google Analytics, and what simple steps can improve it.
  • Schema: Learn about the new coding directives that Google, Bing and Yahoo! rolled out in June, 2011 and how you can take advantage to help Google index your website.
  • The Changing World of Online Reviews: Google has changed how they index your reviews and your strategies should change accordingly. Learn the best way to get more out of your current reviews and where to drive new reviews.
  • Google Analytics: Learn about all of the changes and new features that have happened to Google Analytics in the last year that will help you to measure your growth and success.
  • Email Marketing: Learn some easy tricks and discover a few powerful tools to capture more email addresses, and get more out of your existing email marketing efforts.
  • Vacation Rental Marketing Benchmarks and Stats: Learn how your website compares to industry benchmarks using BlizzardTracker.
  • Booking Engine Effectiveness: Increase your conversion rates by implementing 10 proven features.
  • New Online Tools: Discover cool new tools to track your results, monitor your competitors, increase your effectiveness or just plain have fun.
  • $50 to watch the video-on-demand at your leisure.
  • The video is free for current Blizzard clients.

 

 

 

Develop Your Search Marketing and Google Expertise in Colorado

Create your in-house search marketing expertise during a 2-day search marketing workshop intensively focused on gaining success from Google.

You are invited to join Blizzard Internet Marketing for a Google Boot Camp held in our hometown of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Join hospitality, lodging, vacation rental managers, and other travel companies to discover online marketing strategies that will increase search engine rankings, drive more traffic to your website, and improve your  marketing strategy; guaranteed.

You will leave the workshop with a list of marketing action items, guaranteed, or your money back.

The workshop will be held on October 13 -14, 2010 at the Hotel Denver, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. A Glenwood Springs landmark, The Hotel Denver is adjacent to the Colorado River the famous Glenwood Hot Springs, and is walking distance to historic downtown Glenwood Springs.

[Read more…]

Increase Productivity – Use an Additional Monitor

How many monitors to you use in your workspace? I have 2, sometimes 3 when my laptop is open.

Everyone at Blizzard Internet uses at least 2 monitors; in fact one employee told me that “you will pry my 2nd monitor from my cold dead hands before taking it away from me.”
I HIGHLY recommend that you get your employees at least one more monitor because:
1) It will increase their productivity. I have seen research that productivity can be increased by anywhere between, 9-50%, that alone is worth the cost. http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2009/02/18/234899/multiple-monitors-boost-productivity-by-35.5.htm
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2006-03-02-two-monitors_x.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/20/technology/20basics.html
2) It’s cheap. 24″ screens are now less than $300.
3) They will love (or at least like) you more. This will crease morale, and also increase productivity.

Everyone at Blizzard Internet uses at least 2 monitors and our developers have 3.  One employee told me that “you will pry my 2nd monitor from my cold dead hands before taking it away from me.” So, that pretty much sums up how they feel about it.

I HIGHLY recommend that you get your employees at least one more monitor because:

  1. It will increase their productivity. I have seen research that productivity can be increased by anywhere between, 9-50%, that alone is worth the cost. I read this in Computer Weekly, the USA Today, and the New York Times.
  2. It’s cheap. 24″ screens are now less than $300.
  3. They will love (or at least like) you more. This will increase morale and increase productivity.

Check out my productive team:

Larry, the master of his own domain and master of coding, uses 3 monitors to rule the world.Larry is a mad man!

Matt optimizes his productivity when optimizing websites using dual monitors.Matt is productive

Angelina Doglie is working as slow as molasses with her single monitor.1 screen stinks

Blizz on Flickr See more pictures of the Blizzard Internet Marketing Team being productive on on Flickr.

Site Map FAQs

Now that you know the top 10 Site Map Do’s and Don’ts and the basics about site maps, we will answer a few questions that we often get about creation and size.

How many links SHOULD I have on my site map?
In our research, we have found that Google allows up to 50,000 URL’s on one site map!  But remember, the Google site map is not intended for human visitors but for the Googlebot that indexes your XML site map to see all of your pages.
For an HTML site map, usually fewer than 100 links is acceptable.  Any more than that Google considers to be a “link farm” and your site could be penalized.

How do you create a Site Map for a large site? [Read more…]