BusinessProductivitySecurity & PrivacyTechnologyWeb Development

1 ways cloud computing benefits your business

From The Ground to The Cloud!

Cloud Computing is being adopted by large and small companies for their numerous benefits. As the technology grows, it will soon become the industry standard if it has not already. It’s affordable and stays up-to-date! It should be a part every small business’ success story and this post aims to shine some light on what the cloud is. Don’t let your business fall behind on this trend and reap the benefits of The Cloud today!

can't stop the signal
OK, not QUITE the same. But close enough.

What is Cloud Computing?

You might be asking “what is Cloud Computing” and “why should I care”? 

Cloud Computing is sort of like a car rental: You pay for as much as you use it, have the freedom to use it however you like (as long as it’s legal, of course), and it’s owned and managed by another company, not you. 

You are probably used to the idea of servers running in their own enclosed space, handling all your business’ mission-critical services such as databasing and website hosting.  As the name “Cloud Computing” suggests, all of the system resources that your services rely on are floating in a remote space and can grow or shrink based on the conditions that you set for it.

Cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Digital Ocean, Linodeetc allow you to rent a server with the latest hardware for a very affordable price. 

 

1. Affordable

Let’s begin with the #1 reason why a business owner should consider cloud computing: it’s affordable! Instead of paying thousands of dollars up front for a working server and hiring a team of professionals to set it up and maintain it, you pay a fraction of the price for a server that is already set upYou will still have to manage the software side of things thoughThey can start for as little as $5 monthly and you only pay more as you need stronger hardware. You probably would have paid roughly that much or more on a monthly basis just to cover the power usage, which also gets taken out of the equation if you run your server on the cloud. For the price of an on-premise setup, you might have a fully working cloud infrastructure for years to come.

Now you don’t need to lose entire paycheques before your business even gets a chance to take off!

2. Scales with Latest Hardware

As a small business you might not need a huge, powerful server. Starting out, you might only need a small machine to deliver your services to your customers. Your needs may grow as your company does and you can easily provision more resources when it does. Instead of starting with a powerful server, you can upgrade to one once you need it. On top of only paying for what you need, the hardware available will usually be up to date and you don’t have to worry about spending more money on updated hardware after a few years. 

3. High Availability 

Unlike owning a server on-premises, servers that host your virtual machines reside in data centers in a remote location. They often also have high bandwidth, making it easier for clients who are farther away to connect to your website or service, especially if it experiences high traffic that your local internet provider might not be able to handle. This is also important for being able to connect to your server to for managing problems or updates.  

Since servers are hosted in remote data centres, your service will be available to your major demographic even if they are halfway around the world!

 

What’s the Catch?

Are you interested in cloud computing yet? You can spend less money for a server located almost anywhere in the world. Your office might burn to the ground but your data will remain safe. These are only some of the many strengths of cloud computing and the barrier for entry is low, so you can try it out with very little risk.

There are some things to watch out for though. Contrary to the #1 reason for having a server hosted on the cloud, it is also very easy to accidentally over spend by renting a cloud service or resource that you do not need or use. Although you don’t have to worry about someone breaking into your office and stealing your hard drives, you still need to employ good security practices to minimize the odds of someone hacking into your server and ruining your business. 

If you are interested in cloud computing but are not interested in the setup process, or if you don’t have the technical skills needed to do it yourself you can always consult an IT company such as Panda Rose to take care of your set up process and manage it on an as-needed basis. 

BusinessMarketingProductivitySEOShoppingSocial MediaWeb Development

build your own ecommerce website, be your own boss

I’m going to spoil this whole blog by telling you the three reasons you should build your own eCommerce website in this very first sentence: eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. That’s it, there you have it, that’s why you should build your own eCommerce website.

I know what you’re thinking: “Deborah, you’ve gone completely bananas. I couldn’t possibly independently compete with those three!”

Brick laughing with a banana
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a little bit off my rocker.

Well I hate to break it to you folks, but I went completely bananas years ago. You should know that by now. But that’s completely aside from the point and unrelated to anything I’m saying here. Just let me continue, and stop mentally interrupting me, OK? Thanks.

Even when you list your products on those sites, you are still competing with all of them. But let’s take a closer look.

Amazon

Xena, Warrior Princess
Darn it you guys, STILL not that Amazon.

Of these big three sellers, Amazon.com was founded in 1994. Who even remembers having the internet in 1994? My family had an Apple computer back then, but eventually switched to a PC. I think we got dial-up in 1995:

beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep ccccccccchhhhhhh doooooo-dee-doo000-beepbeep-boop-beep-dooop cccccccchhhhhhhhhh

dial-up internet
You know what I’m talkin’ about.

. . . and then that sweet sound of connection. It wasn’t long before I discovered Amazon.com. It used to be all books, all the time, and soon after, I could also get CDs and DVDs, and better yet, I could soon buy them used from other sellers! I’ll admit, I have Amazon Prime membership in both the USA and Canada. As a buyer, Amazon is pretty great.

But what about as a seller?

Amazon is complicated. Their fees are high. You’ve got a huge amount of competition, including people who buy and bulk, which isn’t great if you’re a smaller business. Not only that, but you are also in direct competition with Amazon itself.

Take for example the issue of AmazonEssentials products. Despite claims to the contrary, Amazon employees have used what is supposed to be private information about independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products, going directly against their own company’s policy.

Speaking of competing products, several major brands have refused to sell on Amazon because they don’t police the grey market well enough. One brand even preferred to sell exclusively on Walmart instead. Not to dis Walmart or anything (loyal shopper here), but I kinda think that says something.

people at walmart crashing balls
Am I a Person of Walmart? That’s for me to know and you to find out.

eBay

cat selling a cat in a box
I’ve tried this with my children, but apparently it’s “against the rules”.

Ah yes, the wild west of online sales. Or so it seemed to be back in those first few years. eBay was founded only a year after Amazon, in 1995. It started simple enough. The first sale was a broken laser pointer to a fellow who collected broken laser pointers, who would’ve thought? Initially, listing an item was free, but the founder’s internet services bill got too high, so he had to start charging a listing free, which people found pretty reasonable.

(As an aside, my first year of high school, my school’s principal, Tom Sawyer (yes, that legit was his name, no relation to the real fictional Tom Sawyer, though), was an expert at calling auctions. You know, that really fast-talking thing. Everybody in town would get him to do live auctions. Pretty amazing. eBay should have hired him for . . . something.)

Thousands of people have found success on eBay, but more and more, people have become increasingly frustrated. In the words of one former seller, “eBay sacrifices its sellers to its buyers”. I know that “the customer is always right” is a good general policy, but eBay appears to take this a bit too far. According to this same seller, “eBay ‘insures’ purchases by resolving all disputes in favor of the buyer, and then forcing the seller to cover the costs. Paypal helps them by seizing the seller’s funds.”

So eBay runs on a guilty-until-proven-innocent-system where the seller can almost never prove themselves innocent. It also leaves the seller open to buyer fraud.

guilty!
Even if you’re innocent, you’re still guilty.

eBay can limit your sales very arbitrarily, despite your good record (and bringing in lots of income to eBay itself). An ill-intentioned person can give a seller a bad review, a postal strike causing a delay in shipment, or any other little fluke can lead them to limit how much a seller is allowed to sell. One seller whose whole business. You are subject to eBay’s whims. You may feel like your own boss, but you are at the mercy of buyers and eBay’s poor customer service.

Etsy

Etsy, the newest to the market. Launched in 2005 on the east coast, it’s the indie girl’s heaven for vintage, handmade, and craft supplies. Yes, I’ve purchased all of the above on there. Etsy has been great for sellers of these things, but in recent years, Etsy’s policies have changed for the negative.

where do you even find a a gold coke straw? etsy.
Seems legit. In a not really legit sorta way.

Etsy is no longer friendly to small business, you are literally competing with huge shops in China. It’s sad really — you see someone has designed something creative and lovely, and within a few months, other people are copying that design and it’s all being shipped from China. Sure, maybe it was handmade, but do you really think the worker got fair pay for the work they did?

Not only that, but because of Etsy opening up their policy to this type of business, small business owners have faced lower sales volumes and increased competition due to the sheer volume of shop owners on the site, and it’s not exactly easy to differentiate your own shop from all the rest. You get a name and you get a logo. That’s about it. It’s very difficult to truly build your own brand.

On top of this, Etsy has their own weird SEO algorithms that work completely differently from most ordinary search engines, and at the same time, Etsy items don’t rank well in Google searches. And then there are the fees. They can arbitrarily hike the fees whenever they please, cutting into the profit margin of small businesses as well.

At the end of the day, is it really worth all this trouble?

Who are you really working for?

All three of these platforms make it somewhat easy to list your products in an online shop, but is it really worth it? How does it really benefit you as a business? Perhaps early on it might have been easy for people to search and find your products, but now they’re so over-saturated that it’s difficult for people to find you. You can’t truly build your own brand.

At the end of the day, with having to follow someone else’s ever-changing policies, very little control over how operations are run, and the inability to truly build your own brand while paying someone else fees, it sure sounds a lot like you’re doing a lot of work for someone else. You may have more flexibility than a typical job, but you’ve still got someone bossing you around.

But what else can a small business do?

Gosh, I’m sure glad you asked! The truth is, building your own eCommerce website isn’t that complicated. There are lots of options out there, though our two favourites are WooCommerce and Shopify. The great thing about your own site is you are in charge. You decide what your website will look like, your branding, everything. Nobody will tell you what kind of payments you will take, you get to decide that. You get to decide what shipping options you will offer, and where you will ship.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m pretty stubborn and don’t like being told what to do. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being able to control every aspect of my business (or delegate to people whom I trust) is right up my alley. Both of these platforms offer countless tools to make it easy to do.

Zoolander like a boss
You can be really really really really really ridiculously good looking AND be your own boss at the SAME TIME.

How will people find me if I’m not on one of these big sites?

Google.

OK, that’s the easy answer, but not the only one. Look at it this way: you’re not just selling stuff, you’re building a brand. Do you have a Facebook page? Instagram? Most of these eCommerce platforms have integrations with both Facebook and Instagram (WooCommerce: Facebook, Instagram; Shopify: online sales channels).

Honestly, lots of the new stuff I discover is through social media, so build a following! Write blogs about your products, get other people to share your products and how great they are! Get in people’s heads. Build your brand. If you need any advice on SEO, social media, or digital marketing, talk with us. We are more than happy to help!

Back to Google though — this year they announced a new feature they are making available on their shopping search results. Currently their Google Shopping search results are all sponsored products, but this spring, in the US, they opened it up so that people could list their products for free (there would still be sponsored listings, a bit like regular search results).

This isn’t available in Canada yet, but one article suggests it will be quite soon for Canada, and another says that it will be global before the end of the year. I find this pretty exciting, as it’s another SEO opportunity for our eCommerce clients. It appears that already there are integrations for WooCommerce and Shopify.

OK, but what about the cost?

I’ll admit, there’s a bigger up-front cost with building a site yourself.

I take that back. Shopify isn’t all that bad, although they have monthly fees, because it is hosted, although the monthly fees might add up, but it comes with everything all-in-one full-meal-deal if that’s what you like. You can pay to have someone set it all up for you, have it match your branding and whatnot, or you can set it up yourself and you’ll probably get by either way. It’s a great option for someone who wants a store. Some pretty big brands use Shopify, including Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Penguin Books.

WooCommerce is my favourite though. It’s a great option if you want a full website, more than just a shop. From what I understand the API is easier to work with, so if you like doing your own coding . . . stuff (sorry, I stick to html and css, disturbingly so), it’s a better option. I like that you can use their official plugins or third party plugins  to make it do whatever you darned-well please. Many-a-time a client has asked “but can you make it do this?” and I’ve said “of course we can!” then gone to one of our developers and said “so . . . they asked me if we can make it do this” to be told “weird but . . . I guess so?”

Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?
Right?!

As for cost, WooCommerce itself is free, though if you purchase it with a theme, it sometimes comes with other paid upgrades. There are paid and free plugins you can get for WooCommerce. Your main cost will be building the website, and then the monthly or annual fee of hosting it varies from provider to provider.

I may or may not be the Yes Girl, much to the chagrin of our CEO. (Sorry Kelly.)

Let’s do it!

So now that I’ve given you all the reasons why you really ought to have your own website instead of working for someone else, why don’t you give us a call, send us an email, or contact us through social media and let us help you get your business online! We can offer advice on what platform is best for you, or we can do all the work for you. Whatever level of service you need, we’re here for you.

Doctor Who: Just do it!
Don’t take my word for it. The good Doctor says you should too.
FutureProgrammingTechnologyWeb Development

and now for something completely different

In the our 20-odd years with PHP, there have always been people attempting to work a step or two ahead of where the language was at the time. Working with PHP4 in the early 2000s, when a very elementary Java-derived object model was grafted on the language, people attempted to write proper Java without the guardrails. Objects are the sort of thing that, if your language doesn’t give you, you will probably try to invent, as people before that with PHP3.

PHP5 brought the gradual strengthening of the language’s object model, as well as dynamic “magic methods” which people ran wild with in the late 2000s, stretching things every which way. By the early 2010s the ecosystem had sobered up and begun to build serious structures around it. The language got a proper package manager in Composer, and in playing by a set of community-established conventions, one could draw upon vast resources for free. Many of us did, and over the lifespan of PHP5, the language completed a transformation from its hobbyist origins to something more enterprise-worthy. This was only aided by the widespread shift to cloud-centric computing, which PHP — stateless by nature — was uniquely equipped to handle.

PHP: The Next Generation

PHP7 came at an opportune time in the mid-2010s. Apparent competition from Facebook’s PHP-based hacklang seemed to kick the release schedule for PHP5’s sequel into high gear, amidst worries that a competing, partially-compatible offshoot would fragment the ecosystem. The internals team, which typically ties major version jumps (3 to 4, 4 to 5, 5 to . . . 7) to significant engine improvements, did not disappoint. Version 7 arrived with huge speed improvements (5x, by many counts) and set about, over the lifespan of the 7.x line, finishing the task of strengthening the language’s guardrails. The end result took much of the wind out of hacklang’s sails and, though it continues as a part of facebook’s internal toolset, the feared splintering of the community did not arrive.

Now, as we await the arrival of PHP Next Generation — Version 8 — in the closing months of 2020, let’s look at how we’ve continued to work at the margins in our time with PHP 7, and how we can expect to see our visions realized in future PHP.

make it so

Building a more reflective environment

Beyond the speed boost, PHP greatly strengthened the type system, once considered a critical weakness of the language. Once a weakly typed language, its modern incarnations are more accurately gradually typed — that is to say, while you can still work in a fast and loose way as before, structure and boundary may be introduced as the lines become more defined.

Through external tools, through linters and validation, structure and boundary may be enforced on a project level. The language may be wielded in a way acceptable to the enterprise, without losing the dynamism, flexibility and lightness of weight that characterize a scripting language.

If PHP is the best of both worlds, it’s the hardening of its type system that has brought it there, and it’s around its type system that our work has revolved.

class Before {
protected $database;
public function getUser($id, $password);
}
class After {
protected $database;
public function getUser(int $id, string $age): User;
}

Before is an example of a method signature, PHP5-style. We can infer that $id is probably a number, and $password is probably a string of text. getUser probably returns a user record. These are all reasonable assumptions, but there’s no actual indication of this, and certainly no enforcement. What happens if you pass in a textual ID and a numeric password, or trick it to return something other than a user record? And putting aside everything that could go wrong at runtime, there’s little usable information here for an IDE to provide hinting as you work.

(In the months before PHP7 was announced, our team had a working model that looked an awful lot like After, running entirely on plain-vanilla PHP 5.4. We stopped work on it at that point, and the less we say about how we did it, the better.)

After, using the syntactic enhancements of PHP7, is replete with useful information for automated tools and human readers, and establishes clear boundaries for runtime operation. Try feeding in the wrong values, or coaxing out a bad result. The engine itself will refuse.

So what did people do before 2015? Labour with blind IDEs, unable to analyze their code? No, the PHP community did what it does in the face of adversity and established sensible community standards. Deriving from the Javadoc format, DocBlocks became a standard way of expressing the intent of a program.

class Annotated {
/** @var Connection */
protected $database;
/**
* Retrieve a user from the database.
* @param int $id
* @param string $password
* @throws UserNotFoundException
* @returns User
*/
public function getUser($id, $password);
}

In this way, people were pretending that PHP was well-typed long before it was. Now, these specifications are suggestions, not rules: the language does not register them and will not enforce them at runtime. But they provide a standard way to provide a wealth of metadata beyond what the type system can adequately capture, even now. (Referring back to the After diagram, you’ll notice that this diagram contains more information. PHP 7.0 was incapable of attaching type information to $database, and it doesn’t specify possible error states.)

So on our side we’ve got a consistently improving type system and well-defined documentation format with broad community support. We’ve got powerful Reflection capabilities built in to the language — that is, programs can read their own blueprint, make decisions based on their own structure. All this within a language with a history of dynamism and “magic” undefined conditions.
So let’s look at one way in which we worked past a shortcoming of PHP, and had the opportunity to loop back once the language caught up.

Typed Properties in PHP 7

Let’s dwell for a second or two on a fragment of the last two code samples, to see a shortcoming of PHP 7.0 as it initially shipped.

class After {
protected $database;
}
class Annotated {
/** @var Connection */
protected $database;
}

In contrast to methods, class properties such as the $database are as weakly-typed as ever before. Within a class, it’s the honour system. If you were to make $database public rather than protected, you’d be merely trusting the rest of your system not to pass in a bad value, and you’re telling the rest of system nothing (except by way of commentary) of its intended content.

Meanwhile, our team is building a framework around a Dependency Injection container, and this is a crucial bit of missing information for us as we attempt to analyze and fulfill the needs of a class.
But since we have metadata available in another way, we end up with something like this:

class ExampleController {
/**
* @var UserEntity
* @Inject(required=true)
*/
protected $user;
}

No, not the prettiest. We earnestly wished, at the time, that we could express property types like this:

class ExampleController {
protected UserEntity $user;
}

and Annotations like this, such as in Java:

class ExampleController {
@Inject(required=true)
protected $user;
}

but we continue to build our system as if the language had those functionalities, without our own implementations as a stopgap. In each case, we were expecting the language to go that way eventually, though we couldn’t say for certain any timeframe.

Sure enough, as development of PHP 7.x continued and initial shortcomings were resolved one by one, we got one item checked off our wishlist with PHP 7.4. Typed Properties now allowed the above to be slimmed down to:

class ExampleController {
/** @Inject(required=true) */
protected UserEntity $user;
}

Furthermore, the properly typed property doesn’t function just as a suggestion for the dependency system to interpret and fulfill. Another guardrail, formally in place, and we began supporting this method within our framework immediately. But its addition didn’t invalidate the old method. @var annotations remain valid and will remain so indefinitely.
But speaking of annotations…

Annotations in PHP 8

This is a bit of a “stop the presses” moment, as I had already written how this remains a long-running, major item on our wishlist. How I had followed various RFCs over the past decade, hopeful for each of them, resigned to the reality that it might never be accepted.

Our half-way implementation might be all we ever had, and that was okay. Then, with my press date looming, this lands in my inbox:

i just closed the vote. [Attributes v2](https://wiki.php.net/rfc/attributes_v2) was accepted with 51 yay, 1 nay. The selected syntax will be <<Attribute>>.

Thank you everyone for participating in the discussion and vote!

I was more than glad to tear up that draft, and I’ll be glad to see DocBlock annotations become an optional feature as code like this becomes the norm:

class ExampleController {
<<Inject>>
protected UserEntity $user;
}

Yet, even as the language has caught up with our intentions and we’ve adapted our course accordingly, functionality has remained consistent throughout. The language gave us enough rope to mock-up both features to the degree that we didn’t feel impoverished in their absence, and were able to pivot effortlessly when both were introduced.

It remains to be seen what aspect of PHP 9 we end up building, but we look forward to discovery.

There are many reasons to be excited for PHP 8!

Annotations — er, Attributes — are a definite favourite here, but a major PHP release is a big deal and we’ll be here in future weeks to go through them all.

BusinessMarketingPandemicSEOShoppingTechnologyWeb Development

man in pigeon costume attacking man

The dilemma

So government has forced you to close up shop.

And the landlord is still expecting you to pay rent.

And you’ve got bills to pay.

You’ve got products that are going to go out of fashion.

You’ve got people who rely on you for employment.

You’ve got your own family to support!

So what’s a business owner to do in a situation like this?

For obvious reasons, you can’t just open up your shop and run business as usual. A fine from the government is the last thing you need right now! But surely there must be an alternative?

If you're the kind of guy who can help me pay my bills, I can help you in other ways
Yes. We can help you in other ways. You can help us in other ways. We can help each other in all sorts of ways.

 

Well, yes, in fact there is (I’m sure you saw this answer coming a mile away).

eCommerce!

But wait, there are some things you need to consider first . . .

The elephant in the room

And of course, I have to mention the elephant in the room.
Oh, it’s way bigger than an elephant.

 

Yes, that one. Amazon. Let’s face it, as soon as you enter the online marketplace, you are competing with Amazon. That’s not an easy feat. You’ve also got Etsy, Ebay, and countless other well-established sites out there to compete with. You need to ask yourself these questions:

What makes you stand out from the rest? What makes you different? How are you unique? What do you have to offer that they don’t?

Do you sell something unique to the region? Do you sell something that everybody wants, but can’t get from the mainstream big box stores? Do you offer delivery services in your region? How about next-day pick-up so a customer can save money on shipping? These days it takes several weeks for even Amazon Prime members to receive items in the mail. For an online shopper, being able to get their hands on an item quickly is like gold!

But . . . how?

There are lots of ways to open your own online shop. The first thing you need is a website. If you don’t have a website, you need to get one 10 years ago! You can’t possibly tell me that you’re too good for a website and don’t need one. No lie: any time I’m looking for a new place to shop where I haven’t been, I try looking up their website to see if they’re worth my time. And honestly, if the look kinda ghetto, I’m less likely to go. So get yourself a good-lookin’ website.

But why else do you need a website? I mean, everybody knows about you and people find you through word of mouth, right? Well, what about when your friend Janice’s aunt Sally’s best friend Betty’s sister Noreen hears about the shop from aunt Sally, but aunt Sally can only partially remember the name, and Noreen has an even worse memory than aunt Sally, so she only remembers that your shop’s name had something to do with pigeons or birds or something and the name of the town it’s in.

Man feeding pigeons, man-sized pigeon attacks man
Birds aren’t even real.

But if you have a website, Noreen can type those words in, and if your website has good SEO, that will be enough for search engines to help Noreen find your website, and find your shop!

I mean, but how about that online shop idea?

Oh, yes, that. So let’s assume the website thing isn’t an issue. Now you need to figure out how to sell your items online. There are a number of ways to do that, either through third-party websites where your products will be lumped in with a bunch of other products for sale from other businesses, or on your own website.

Amazon

Xena, Warrior Princess
Ummm, not that Amazon.

Yes, you can actually sell your own products on Amazon. But do you really want to compete with Amazon on their own website? Probably not. If you’re selling a product that Amazon already sells, you must list it on the same page, you can’t duplicate a product, but you can’t incentivize your product with two-day shipping. That’s something you have to earn. And speaking of shipping, Amazon decides how much your shipping rates are going to cost. If you’re interested in trying that outlet, article on Amazon.ca has some basic info on what you need to know to sell on Amazon.

Ebay

Ebay is an interesting place, but you have to do your research if you want to sell there. Taking a look at top-selling items can be helpful in telling you what people are looking for on ebay. If your product doesn’t really fall into those categories, then it might not be the right place for you. If you sell antiques and collectibles, it’s almost definitely the place for you. If you want to learn more about ebay, here is where you can check out their selling basics page.

While you’re on their site, it’s kind of fun to look at their prohibited items page. Among may other things, if you’re trying to sell any of these things, I suggest you avoid ebay:

  • Stolen property
  • Products that pose a health or safety hazard (that seems really open-ended to me)
  • Escort services
  • Personal advice
  • Pacemakers, heart valves, vascular grafts, ventricular bypass devices, and implantable infusion pumps
  • Expired coupons
  • Social security numbers
  • Human remains (except human scalp hair)
  • Used urns
  • Expired food
  • Narcotics
  • Used underwear
  • Speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites obtained from caves on government land
Urn with text
You can’t sell this on ebay.

So, if your store sells any of these things, I’d steer clear of Ebay.

Etsy

Is most of your product handmade/original product? You could choose to open your own Etsy store. If you sell something particularly unique, this is not a bad option, or if you sell craft supplies or vintage items. You will find yourself competing with a lot of suppliers from China, though, which is always a challenge. Warning: like ebay, you also cannot sell human remains on Etsy. Also off the table: metaphysical services, violence, and illegal items. If you want to read more about Etsy’s store policy, you can view it on the Etsy website.

Portlandia
If you sell locally made artistic stuff, Etsy just might be the place for you. Put a bird on it!

Now, as much as I like shopping on these sites, if you’re a mature business with a storefront trying to move into the online world, a better option would be to create your own store rather than putting all your products into someone else’s store, and this is where Panda Rose would really like to help you out.

Shopify

A very popular hosted E-Commerce platform for selling products is Shopify. You pay a monthly subscription fee and can add any number of upgrades for additional features. They’ve got a nice clean-looking catalog and it’s relatively user-friendly. And yes, you can get your own web address, so if you want your site to be www.myawesomepigeonstore.ca, it can be that. Shopify can adjusted to have the look and feel that you like to match your company’s branding, and it can integrate well with Canada Post, manage your inventory, connect with your accounting system, and anything else you could possibly want.

If that’s not enough, there are some big names out there who trust Shopify — Adele, Lady Gaga, World Wildlife Foundation, Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, and BBC. As you might imagine, while it’s primarily a shop, it’s somewhat versatile in how you can use it.

men dressed as ketchup
If it’s good enough for Heinz, it’s good enough for you. (Wait, is this a depiction of ketchup cannibalism? Yikes.)

As a drawback, it tends to be more on the “cookie cutter” side of things, which I’m never a big fan of.

WooCommerce

Speaking of versatility, if that’s what you’re after, Woocommerce is what you’re really going to want. I might be a little biased because I enjoy working with WordPress so much, but I’ve always liked how easy it is to manipulate everything in WordPress, which also includes Woocommerce. They’ve got a plugin for everything, but you don’t always need that plugin, you can often figure out your own code to make things work the way you like.

One project that was particularly interesting last year was making WooCommerce work with a non-Wordpress  site for doing fundraisers. The site was built from our own code, but pulled all the WooCommerce info for products and whatnot, and people completed their purchase on the site. Our client only really had to deal with the WordPress/WooCommerce side of things as well where their main site is, which kept things easier for them.

Paris Hilton & Nicole Ritchie
At Panda Rose, we can do pretty much anything. Just like Paris and Nicole.

All this to say that: if there’s something you want us to build, we can make it happen. Our answer is rarely “no”, and when it is, it’s usually because it’s in your own best interest, and if you still insist anyway, then so be it! We generally believe that nothing is impossible. I think that WooCommerce aggress with us with their “sell anything” and “no limits” points on their WooCommerce Features page.

Are there other eCommerce platforms?

I mean, yeah.

Are you going to tell me all about them?

No.

 

Platform shoes
Some platforms are awesome, like these shoes.

 

guys wearing crocs shoes
Some platforms are Wix and Squarespace.

While there are other platforms that offer eCommerce like Squarespace and Wix we generally recommend against using those types of platforms. They are not good for SEO and their limitations are significant. Because of their business model, they also tend to nickel and dime you for every little upgrade you want. eCommerce or website, just avoid these platforms. They’re not nice to work with and they don’t look good to search engines.

So what now?

Give us a call, comment on this blog, send us an email, contact us through our social media, send us smoke signals, or whatever way you prefer to communicate and set up a meeting with us. We can walk through the wide world of eCommerce and help you make the best decision for the type of business you run. We can help you build or refresh your website, and we can help integrate eCommerce into it. If your funds are more limited, we can help set things up and send you down the right path with a bit of training.

At the end of the day, we truly want to see the small businesses in our community be successful. As long as we have the tools to help business owners do that, we’d like to be a part of that.

Ben Stiller
You can be successful without eating it for breakfast or drinking skim milk. Personally, I like whole milk. And it’s OK if you like to skip breakfast.
BloggingEducationMarketingSEOUncategorizedWeb Development

Today when people are searching for your business they are mainly going to their phones or computers to find you. Google is the biggest search engine out there, and if you aren’t on board, people may be missing you. Starting a Google My Business account or optimizing your existing one is vitally important for your business and how it appears in searches.

Setting Up a Google My Business Account

Google My Business listings

If you haven’t set up a Google My Business (GMB) account yet, you’ve got one mission for today…set up a GMB account! No seriously, it may seem like just another place to add your business to but this one is important and here’s why. When people are searching for a product or service they jump onto Google. For example, searching “office supplies” pulls up the Google accounts of places that offer these supplies. This image is what your GMB account will show up like. You will see the rating of your business, location, some images and much more as you go in further. If you have a good GMB account, this may even show up before your website listing. The initial set up is straight forward, but it’s the actions you take in each of those steps and after your account is set up that makes or breaks your account.

Images Are Everything

images are everything

When you have the option to add pictures of your business, always, always do it. You don’t want to resort to stock images because Google will find them and remove them. Take this chance to show off your business, inside and out. Take multiple pictures of the front and inside of your building. People feel comfortable when they can see different aspects of your business. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer either. Take clear, well lit images of the first place you see when you walk in, the staff and definitely your products. Don’t make people feel like they are going on a blind date when they are coming to you. If a business adds stock images as their product photos or avoids images of their building, I usually question why their products weren’t deemed “good enough” to make it to the front page. Or what the building looks like so I wont drive past, or wonder if I’m at the right address. Including these images shows you are proud of your work and prepared. Add pictures of the people working there, recognizing a face when walking into a business, even if it’s just from a picture, helps puts people at ease and builds trust.

Take advantages Of Features

using features

Just recently, Google made it available to get a short name for your business. Creating a short name makes it easier for people to send links to others to leave a review. When adding a logo to your profile be sure corners aren’t being cut off and it is a good quality image, a square usually works best. Choose a header that represents your business well and be creative when writing your business description. Please don’t copy and paste directly from your website, make your description unique.

Post regularly

Post regularly

Be active on your Google My Business account, post every week about new features or products. Bring to life aspects of your business that go unnoticed. Posts will expire so keep your account updated for the best reach. Regularly check your categories because they are often updated and new categories are added that you may want to be found under.

Reviews

reviews

Reviews aren’t as scary as they seem. We have an entire blog post about how to manage bad reviews. So when it comes to Google reviews, don’t be afraid to ask customers to leave a review after their visit. It’s a great way to hear about their experience and gain exposure! Although in the event that a bad review pops up, don’t take it personally. Be professional, address the issue, create a solution, if it hasn’t been solved already, and apologize for their experience. Keeping emotions out of it is the best way to professionally solve a problem. Since you can’t control the actions of others, it starts with you. Don’t become aggressive or invalidate their experience. Accept it and always apologize, then respond to them in a positive way. This is important. Always respond to reviews, good or bad, in a positive manner. Recognize that some bad reviews are good. Many people want to look at bad reviews just like they want to look at good reviews. They take note of how you responded and what your solution was to the problem.

Creating a Google My Business account increases the amount of people you reach. It helps give more information about who you are and what you do. It encourages people to find you in other areas, like Facebook or maps. You don’t want to skip on an opportunity for people to see your business and to gain more customers.

BloggingEducationSEOTechnologyUncategorizedWeb Development

Improve Your SEO

Everyone wants to be seen and heard, but when everyone wants to be seen that means almost no one is. In case you got lost at the title, I’ll briefly explain what exactly SEO is.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is the process of getting more quantity and quality traffic to your website through the free, organic, or natural search results on search engines.

This of course is something you want for your business, free, organic, natural traffic. We’ll dive into some tips you can practice to achieve good SEO on your website.

1. Create Relevant Content

Blog content

Did you know the amount of time people spend on your website affects your SEO? This means, you want to put out content that people will want to read. Ideally content with more words does better than those with fewer words. But this doesn’t go to say that a post with 2,000 words will do better than one with 500. Pay attention to the quality and relevancy of your posts as this is what makes the biggest difference. The idea behind “the more words the better” is that, you have more space to add keywords, add more outbound links and get people spending more time on your page.

2. Add Quality Photos

good quality photos

Adding photos increases the legitimacy of your website. You can easily find high quality photos for free or take your own pictures for your website. Make sure when adding photos to add keywords to the various components of the image. Such as the file name, alt text, title, description, and caption. Images are processed 60,000 times faster than text and 65% of people are visual learners. Images hold a tremendous amount of value for readers and SEO.

3. Readability

Readability

To make posts inviting to viewers always try to break up text with headers. Just think, if you click a link that is only somewhat interesting to you and are greeted with a huge block of “mono tone” looking text, the chances of you sticking around are pretty slim. The title would have to be extremely compelling for you to read past the first sentence. Don’t give your readers “Mount Everest” type of  content to tackle. What I mean by this is, you can have a heavy or highly informative topic to write about but if you just lay it all on your readers you will overwhelm or even lose them. Break up your text with images, headers, and shorter paragraphs to avoid exhausting or boring readers. To give your SEO a boost try adding keywords into your headers. The easier your content is to read the better you will rank.

4. Mobile Optimization

Mobile Optimization

Back in 2015 Google started penalizing websites that aren’t mobile friendly by pushing them down in search engine rankings. In fact, taking a look at some statistics on just how many website visits were from mobile devices in 2018, 58% were from mobile devices. This number just keeps jumping each year, if your website isn’t mobile friendly good chance you are also seeing a high bounce rate. If you are a B2B marketer mobile optimization is especially important. 77% of executives use their smartphones to research a product or service for their business.

5. Website Speed

Website Speed

Search engines pay attention to your websites loading speed. The chances of users leaving your site increases if they have to wait  longer than 7 seconds for pages to load. Try optimizing the size of your images, larger images can slow down your page. Reduce the number of plugins, the more plugins you have the more resources are needed to run them which slows down your website. The recommended loading speed for your website is under 3 seconds. Since so many websites fall short of the recommended speed, you will have an advantage on your competitors if you increase your website speed.

There are many aspects to SEO but making these few changes will increase your search engine ranking and drive more traffic to your website.

MarketingProgrammingSEOSocial MediaTechnologyWeb Development

Panda Rose

Panda Rose Consulting Studios Inc is expanding and we have opened a second office in St. Albert

Panda Rose has recently celebrated 10 years in business and have also decided to expand! Our new office in St. Albert is located at 13 Mission Ave, right off downtown! We can be found downstairs in suite 1140. Come by and say Hi!

Panda Rose St Albert

We have been member of the St. Albert Chamber for a while, always with the intention of expanding into St. Albert and are continuing to support the local Chamber and it’s businesses by being members and even sponsoring the next Business Luncheon on June 12th!

Join us June 12th for the Kick Off To Summer Business @ Lunch by grabbing your tickets HERE

Location:
840 St. Albert Trail #105
St. Albert, AB
Date/Time Information:
11:30 am – Reception
11:45 am – Commencement of Meeting and Lunch
1:30 pm – Scheduled End Time
Fees/Admission:
Members $40
Non-Members $50

 

BloggingMarketingSEOSocial MediaWeb Development

SEO for loans

Your online presence has bearing when it comes to getting a loan for your business.

According to Statistics Canada from 2016, 51.3% of small businesses request funds to help with their business. Over half of those people are requesting the money from financial institutions such as banks. Many business owners are looking to purchase equipment to speed up processes, hire employees, get into larger spaces and purchase high volume of items. Whatever the reasoning your business is looking to expand, you may need a loan in order to boost your business to take it to the next level.

“51.3% of small businesses request funds to help with their business.”

Last week we were lucky to have Tom Yeo from Scotiabank in Spruce Grove stop by to chat about the importance of your online presence when banks are considering you for a loan. When looking at getting a loan from the bank for business, there are a lot of factors at play, but as Tom explains, they always look online at your businesses website. Whether you sell online items or not, they look up your website.

So what exactly are they looking for when they look up your business online?

Tom says the first thing he does is look at the company website. He looks at the About Us section to see if it is up to date, relevant and if there even is one at all. He is looking to see that there is contact information and that its up to date. He wants to know that your company is going to have business for the next 2, 5, or even 10 years. Tom says then as he’s looking at the website he is looking to see “that it’s professionally done. That then shows that the company takes pride in what it’s doing and is actually invested in it’s image that’s out there.”

“shows that the company takes pride in what it’s doing and is actually invested in it’s image”

Your business’ online image is important for a lot of reasons. It’s important for potential loaners, investors, clients and even employees.

Tom goes on to say that “there was a company I recently decided not to do business with, because when I looked up their company online, what came up was employee reviews and they were all negative.” Now we all know that in business, we can’t make everyone happy. We also know that sometimes there are people out there that make a point to try to ruin a reputation of a company. When I asked Tom if there was any bearing in responses from the company on reviews he replied that it’s important to “manage you entire presence” and that replying to reviews has a “huge impact if done in a professional response.”

There is a bit of a process when beginning to look at funding options for your business, and managing your online presence is one of them. Look for:

  • Reviews.  Search your company online and find reviews. Respond to any concerns left by employees or clients. We even suggest responding to the people who left you wonderful reviews! It’s great for SEO and building community around your brand.
  • Your website information is up to date an relevant. Make sure your contact information is correct and that your products and services are up to date as well.
  • Your website looks professional.

Pop over to our blog post 5 Website Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Business for more tips!

About Tom: Tom Yeo is originally from the UK and moved to Canada a few years ago. He has been in the banking industry for approximately 10 years in a variety of roles including personal banking, business banking and investments.

 

Panda Rose technical solutions solved

MarketingSEOSocial MediaTechnologyWeb Development

You’ve got a website for your company. You are “online”, that should be good enough right? I mean, you don’t sell anything on your website, how important could it be to invest in a good website?

Wrong.

The world is digital and as we shared in our blog post “5 Website Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Business” 47% of users leave a website if its loading time is more than 3 seconds. Couple that information with studies showing that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting a small business or making a purchase with them. A killer website is far more important than we give it credit for. Crucial even.

studies showing that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting a small business or making a purchase with them

Join Kelly Rose from Panda Rose Consulting Inc for a Business Breakfast as he talks about the importance of your business needing a solid website at the Stony Plain Chamber Of Commerce. This is an opportunity to ask Kelly some questions about your company’s website and how it can perform better, while getting the chance to also do a bit of networking with local business owners.

 

Date: January 15, 2019
Time: 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM MST Program starts at 8am
Location:
Stony Plain Chamber Boardroom
4815 – 44 Avenue, Stony Plain
Contact Information:
Denise (780) 963-4545
Fees/Admission:
$10 Members
$15 non members
Free – Enhanced Membership

Panda Rose SEO

MarketingSEOUncategorizedWeb Development

Website Development

5 Website Mistakes

Websitemistakeshurtingyourbusiness

The world has moved online, whether you make and sell a specific product or offer a services, customers are finding businesses online. In a recent blog post we explained Why A Good Website Is Important, but this post is about some of the common mistakes we see when starting with new clients, building or updating websites.

1. Your website is too busy

Making your website reader friendly is key here. If your online website is the first time a client is interacting with your business and they come overloaded with information they are more likely to navigate off your page and find an easier to read site. A good way to create a visually more appealing website is to have more white space. Sometimes a little less is more. Keep text blocks short and sweet. If you need to expand on idea, think about creating a blog page to link to for more information.

2. Ignoring the back end of your site

There are a few tools like SCHEMA you can use in the back end of your website to improve your ranking in search engines. Alt text for images is a great way of having keywords added to content. Structured Data markup helps organize the information for search engines so it they can understand what your website is about.

3. Broken links

Broken links or links that lead to no where on your website have a lot of negative effects. Firstly, it is frustrating to potential clients/customers. Picture this, your client is on your e-commerce site and ready to purchase the adorable item you have on your landing page. They click and it leads them to an error message or somewhere else. Now the customer has to navigate around your site to find what they are looking for and are more likely to go somewhere else. Additionally, too may broken or damaged links on your website can hurt your ranking in search engines.

4. Your website is SLOW

As we have shared in previous blog posts 47% of users leave a website if its loading time is more than 3 seconds. People don’t want to wait for a site to load in order to find what they are looking for. Our fast digital world has people wanting instant solutions to their problems and are more likely to navigate away from your site if it is slow moving.

“47% of users leave a website if its loading time is more than 3 seconds.”

5. It’s not accessible

Know your audience, especially if they are needing alternative languages or voice reading options. You can check out this website for a scan of your website.

 

 

Does all of this seem a bit daunting? Take one thing at a time and work on it slowly. Or you can always chat with the Panda Rose team about helping get your website updated.

EducationTechnologyUncategorizedWeb Development

Panda Rose Learning Solutions

Online Training, Learning and Educational Platforms

At Panda Rose we really believe in offering technical solutions in a wide variety.

We offer many services, one of them being building programs and platforms online for clients. Check out a few examples of some of the work we have done for clients.

Ideas Roadshow 

Ideas Roadshow is a supplemental learning for people in IB (International Baccalaureate) programs and creates standardized international learning. This programs are offered through various channels such as specific school, libraries and teachers.

Panda Rose was able to supply support for the website, including code updating and also build the newest IB viewing version.

Aim

Aim is an online language learning platform.

Panda Rose did some of the textbook mapping, meaning we were able to create the online textbooks in multiple languages for resources for students/teachers. In addition we created a chat forum for teacher and students to be able to communicate with each other on the website, rather than needing a separate app or platform. Leaving the user on AIM’s site, instead of another’s.

Curriculum Services Canada

Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) is the Pan-Canadian standards agency for quality assurance in learning products and programs. CSC is a not-for-profit organization that provides services including the development, implementation, evaluation, and accreditation of teaching and learning resources.

Panda Rose was able to update the trillium list (the list of approved textbooks and resources for education) as well as offered updating of their code base. Their website was running on an older version, meaning they were no longer receiving updates, so updating their code allowed them to get them again.

 

 

MarketingSEOTechnologyUncategorizedWeb Development

Your website if the first impression people have of your business.

They are searching the internet for your services or product and they land on your page! Congratulations they found you! Which even finding you is hard enough with tons of businesses online competing for the same top of the search page spot.

They navigate to your website and are greeted by an unappealing site, irrelevant information or it’s SLOW. *que dramatic music* Consumers attention spans are short and when they are searching for information or products, even shorter when they are stopped by a SLOW moving or difficult to navigate website.

Did you know that 47% of users leave a website if its loading time is more than 3 seconds? So optimization is a vital thing for your website. If it’s well-functioning and the content/ products there are of a high-quality, more visitors will surely come and conversion rates will increase.

Deborah, our in house Web Development Expert says “Your website is an extension of your business. You want your website to match the professionalism of your business.”

Having a clear message you are trying to portray to potential clients and customers right away is what will keep them on your website, navigating and researching who you are and just what it is that you do.

In addition, great websites are showcases for some of your best work. You can show of all the amazing products or jobs you have completed to a potential client/customer before they even have the chance to contact you. This decreases some of the time spent answering questions, making your business just that much more efficient.

Finally, a good website with great content helps get you noticed on search engines. The more time people spend on your site and the more often the visit, the more search engines believe your site and information to be relevant. If you want to learn more about SEO check out our recent blog post What even is SEO? And How To Use It.