Join me at WordCamp Miami 2017

Now that it’s been officially announced, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a discussion about “Getting Real Business Results from Your Content Marketing Efforts” at WordCamp Miami!

The event runs March 24-26 (Friday through Sunday) at Florida International University in Miami. The Miami gathering is one of the longest-running and most well-respected events in the WordCamp series, and it’s an honor to be invited to participate.

Last year, the weekend was outstanding, and my lovely wife, Jill, and I are truly looking forward to another spectacular time in South Florida!

WordCamp Miami 2016: Day Two

My wonderful, gorgeous wife, Jill, and I arrived on campus at Florida International University for day 2 of WordCamp Miami 2016… just in time to enjoy another round of bagels & coffee from Einstein Brothers Bagels.

After the opening remarks, we got our dose of Cain & Obenland in the Morning, which was a riot.

A highlight of the “Morning Show” was when they brought in Mark Jaquith for an interview.

Their final segment on WordPress news was fun. Some of the tidbits they shared about what’s happening with WordPress Core were exciting, including the fact that we’ll soon be saying goodbye to the “Bleak Screen of Sadness™”

Jill and I stayed together for the first session of the morning, and we caught “Bootstrapping Your WordPress Business – Going from 0 to 10 Employees” with Scott Mann, who runs Highforge, an agency in Central Florida. Scott started with a compelling story about smoke jumper Wagner “Wag” Dodge and a famous firefighting incident at Mann Gulch which resulted in an on-the-spot innovation that continues to be used by firefighters today.

The point: when you’re bootstrapping your business, you’ll probably need to keep replacing your straps, because they’re going to get burned off!

Scott’s session ran the gamut from tools you can use as you bootstrap to finding and hiring the right talent and even when and how to raise your rates. Very practical. If you own a business and you’re bootstrapping and trying to grow, check out his slides or catch the replay if you can.

Next, Jill headed off to the “All Users” track, and I stuck around for “Product Marketing Tips for Commercial Plugins” with Chris Lema.  While he was specifically focused on developers who are selling premium WordPress plugins, his actual talk contained a ton of useful tactics for any business.

The Afternoon

The Business track that the organizers put together for today has turned out to be utterly fantastic.

A very pleasant surprise was the panel discussion which featured Brett Cohen, co-founder of emagine, Karim Marucchi, CEO of Crowd Favorite Andrew Norcross, founder of Reaktiv Studios, and Kimberly Lipari, COO, Valet. The listed topic was, “How to Scale Your Business,” and the discussion was incredibly real and authentic. Most of all, it was really valuable.

SOPA and Your Right to Free Speech

Note: This post was originally published on the Nourish The Dream blog.

SOPA: Are You Prepared To Be Silenced?

Here at Nourish The Dream, we are incredibly passionate about the success of small businesses and entrepreneurs. We work tirelessly to produce events and resources that will help “nourish the dream” of business ownership and success in the lives of people. And that’s why we feel it’s important to bring SOPA (and its evil twin: PIPA) to your attention.

Depending upon when you read this, the links above may not be working. That’s because Wikipedia is “going dark” for the very first time (at least for its English version) in its history in order to protest this outrageous piece of legislation.

Why Sound the Alarm?

On the surface, the idea behind these bills is honorable and even noble: to stop the illegal downloading & sharing of content protected by copyright. The biggest beneficiaries of this action are relatively obvious: record labels, movie studios and others who create content which is ordinarily sold but which is being pirated (something which, I would like to note, is already illegal).

The egregious nature of the legislation comes not from its ostensible purpose but from its far-reaching, dangerous implications. Specifically, as the legislation is currently drafted, it gives incredible powers of internet censorship to the US courts. Further, it places ridiculous demands upon search engines to no longer provide links to sites which are accused of violating copyrights.

Picture a world where Google is required to police its search results at any given moment for links to websites which have not been proven to be guilty of violating copyrights. Picture a world where your small business website can be shut down at will by anyone willing to throw out a complaint.

In short: the legislation as drafted violates the free speech rights of US citizens via censorship without due process of law.

What About Piracy?

First let me say that we make our living creating content and enjoying the wonderful protection of copyright law. Without copyrights, it would be very difficult for our parent organization to recognize revenue from the training products it creates. Similarly, here at Nourish The Dream, we value very highly the ability for us to create and distribute CDs, MP3s and (soon) DVDs of materials to empower, train & equip the business owners and entrepreneurs we exist to serve… and to, in turn, achieve revenue from those sales to fuel our mission and to give us the ability to create new & better products as we go.

It is therefore of no small significance to us that there be appropriate tools in the hands of legislators and law enforcement agencies to go after piracy and shut it down where possible. We fully understand that no retailer would leave their shop doors unlocked at night with no one watching. There are evil people in the world, and the “honor system” doesn’t always pan out well in the end. Hence the need for proper protections for those who create items of value.

All of that said, SOPA & PIPA do not place appropriate powers in the hands of the right parties to solve the issues they purport to address. Rather, they place undue power in the hands of a few while effectively crippling the business model of many valuable companies who contribute to an open, free (as in speech) internet.

Looking for something to do about it? Visit AmericanCensorship.org or sign this petition on WhiteHouse.gov.

Yoga as a Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

I never cease to be amazed at the things I learn in my line of work. As someone who works almost exclusively with business owners, I’m always finding ideas, thoughts, services and products that are brand new to me.

Carol Fisher of Inner Key Yoga

For example, recently I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Carol Fisher, who is an instructor of yoga in Walnut Creek, CA. Carol is one of those people you run across that is truly a delight. She was referred to me by a mutual friend several months ago, and we were able to get acquainted during the course of helping her with marketing strategy for her business.

I’ve learned a few important things from Carol, some of which we’ll save for a different post (since it has very little to do with yoga). But in the process of learning about the work that she does, she helped me understand something about the importance of movement, balance and strength for persons suffering with Parkinson’s disease.

Now, I already have a fair amount of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease, in no small part thanks to the Parkinson’s disease doctor who has been a client of ours for several years now. So I’m familiar with the tremor, the gait and other unique symptoms that Parkinson’s sufferers have to deal with.

But until I met Carol, I never would have imagined that training under a yoga instructor could really improve the quality of life for a Parkinson’s patient.

Why Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease?

Evidently, there’s quite a bit of research which suggests that exercise is helpful for Parkinson’s sufferers. Since that’s true, it makes perfect sense that yoga might just be an ideal form of exercise for Parkinson’s disease patients.

And while yoga (nor any other form of exercise, for that matter) doesn’t truly treat any Parkinson’s symptoms, one can see how the flexibility, balance and strength gained through engaging in yoga could, in fact, really improve the overall health, confidence and quality of life for someone facing this disease.

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can, in and of itself, bring a great deal of stress along with it. Yoga is widely known as a great tool for dealing with stress. In addition, the average age of Parkinson’s onset is approximately 60 years. Thus, Parkinson’s sufferers are also dealing with the normal issues related to aging. This means that staying physically active and improving balance and strength are more important than ever… and much more so given the symptoms of the disease.

And this is only the beginning. Carol has begun writing about Parkinson’s disease and yoga, and she is doing a fantastic job of explaining in greater detail how yoga can serve to help Parkinson’s sufferers. Be sure to check it out! And if you happen to be located in the area east of Oakland, California, then Carol and Inner Key Yoga may be just the physical fitness solution you’ve been looking for — regardless of your age! Perhaps a visit to her yoga in the park in Walnut Creek would be a great way to start!

EMR Software: Meaningful Use Incentives for Physicians

When I first launched Epiphany Marketing back in 1998, it was a side venture and a vehicle for handling smaller projects that didn’t require a full-time effort. In 2001, however, I decided it was time to make it a full-time effort and start taking on bigger projects.

One of our major clients in those early days was a software dealer that focused on providing electronic medical records software (and the related hardware like computers, scanners, tablet PCs and so on) to physicians’ practices. The company wanted to expand into Florida and we worked with them to develop and implement what turned out to be a highly successful marketing strategy.

Along the way, I became very acquainted with the ins & outs of the modern-day medical practice. Many physicians were already accustomed to using “practice management software” that handled important tasks like scheduling patient appointments and billing insurance companies, medicare & the patients themselves for services rendered.

Electronic Medical Records Software

However, at that time, it was still a relatively novel idea for a smaller, privately-owned medical practice to be using a system for handling electronic patient records (or electronic health records — EHR — as they have come to be known). Even more novel was the idea that an electronic medical records system (EMR) would be integrated with a “practice management” system so that all the patient data was in one place. At that time, if practices were using an EMR system, it was typically completely separate from the scheduling & billing functions that were traditionally part of a practice management system.

We worked with this software company for an extended client engagement which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of about 13-14 months. I met a great many medical practice administrators and doctors in various medical specialties from all over the State of Florida during that time period. Some of the doctors that we worked with went on to become friends and even clients of ours in the years that followed.

Since that time, I have remained interested in medical software. In fact, a friend of mine and I started a consulting firm focused on working with physicians to evaluate their own needs and the EMR systems that were being marketed and sold in order to help them make wise decisions and end up achieving long-term ROI (return on investment) from their technology decisions.

But, as time went by, I spent less and less time focused on that world and more time focused on newer clients and growing our primary business. So… I spent some time away from the space.

In the last few months, however, I’ve had good reason to pay a lot more attention. And it’s interesting to me today to see that the EMR systems available now have very little to offer that’s in any way new and improved over the leading systems from 7-9 years ago. In fact, some of the more “cutting edge” systems from years ago were actually further along than where the major players are today. Sadly, many software companies have come and gone — something that seems to be a bit of an epidemic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the world of medical software.

In fact, the churn in this unique space has created a great deal of reluctance on the part of the typical private medical practice. The doctors who own and/or manage these practices have seen and heard a lot of sales pitches over the years. In some cases, they have invested tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in systems… only to have the software company go out of business or otherwise become unable to provide the much-needed ongoing support that is so critical to a medical practice.

So it’s not surprising when the average physician is reluctant to think about making technology-related changes. To them, it’s about as much fun as a root canal… or exploratory brain surgery (unless, of course, you’re a neurosurgeon… in which case the brain surgery would be fun… as long as it’s being performed on someone else).

Meaningful Use Incentives

Today, however, the government has stepped into the game. Uncle Sam now has a vested interest in making sure that all physicians are tracking patient information (including diagnoses, lab results, prescriptions, etc.) electronically. After all, paper charts have always been incredibly inefficient. And this is all the more true when you have a major role in paying for services being rendered, medications being prescribed, and diagnostics and treatments of all kinds. Aggregating data, keeping track of which physicians are doing what, and which patients are being treated for what illness… these are all reasons to try to force medical practices to use electronic medical records software.

Setting aside the very interesting political and societal ramifications of all this for a moment… what it comes down to today is that government has set up incentives (for now) to reward doctors who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of a qualifying electronic medical records system.

As you might guess, “meaningful use” and “qualifying EMR systems” all have very lengthy (and somewhat bizarre) definitions. But the bottom line is that the first doctors recently got the very first sizable checks from the government to pay out the incentives for using these systems.

On the back side of the incentives is a deadly set of penalties for not adopting a qualifying system within specified time periods. Practices who demonstrate meaningful use early get rewarded. The ones that wait will not only not be rewarded… they’ll actually begin to see cuts in payments for services rendered to Medicare and/or Medicaid patients after a couple of years go by.

What all of this means for the average medical office is this: it’s time to take this seriously. Any medical practices that are using older, outdated systems that don’t meet new government requirements will have to find a new system if their software vendor doesn’t make the necessary enhancements in time. Medical practices that haven’t begun meaningfully using an electronic medical records system at all (you know… the ones still chasing 2-inch thick — or thicker — patient charts around the office) will be forced to purchase and implement a system.

As a patient, you’ve probably begun to see certain physicians taking advantage of technology. Some doctors have welcomed technology quite openly… and you’ll see them carting laptops around the office and typing up visit notes while you wait. Others have dragged their feet and will only begin using technology against their wishes. Some will undoubtedly retire early rather than face that kind of change. Others will be driven out of business by the expense… especially when added to the already high costs of medical malpractice insurance combined with the pressures of reduced reimbursements from insurers and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid (not to mention the high costs of providing health insurance benefits to their own employees).

Regardless, your privacy as a patient is going to be affected. It’s already been greatly reduced in recent years. Pretty soon it’s not going to exist at all thanks to Uncle Sam’s meddling in this game.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of using EMR systems are substantial. Medical practices that have truly embraced the process and have implemented systems have been able to greatly reduce their operating costs, increase efficiency, increase the speed with which they can access and utilize needed information (very important for you when facing an urgent medical issue of any kind), and even recover from disasters (after all… do you think they had backups of their paper charts?).

The bottom line? We’ll be keeping a close eye on all the issues related to electronic medical records, patient privacy and the economics of practicing medicine in the 21st Century. It’s all about to change…

WordPress Site Hacked: NoIndex and NoFollow All Links

Yes… You Know Who You Are

This morning I made the startling discovery that an important WordPress site belonging to one of our clients had been hacked.

A Little History

If you’ve heard me speak in the last 5 years, you know that I’m a huge believer in the power of content marketing. We regularly recommend and teach business blogging basics to our clients. We have no desire to turn them into bloggers per se, but we’ve trained them that producing fresh, high quality content is a fantastic way to achieve visibility online and even provide fodder for social media outlets like Facebook & Twitter.

So… one of our clients who hired us to build out their WordPress site and for whom we’ve provided a fair amount of training and coaching for some time now began to experience a decline in search engine rankings. In their case, WordPress is installed on a separate domain from their main website. Their main website was historically not performing well from a search engine point of view (although it was great from virtually every other perspective when it was built), so WordPress was being used as a way to help prop up the main site. And it worked. Really, really well.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this particular site began to drop in the rankings for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed that we could tell. We did a little research and paid attention to what the competitors were doing and could see nothing significant enough to account for the change. It was very much an anomaly, because all of our other clients who were doing what we trained them to do were doing just fine.

So today, quite by accident, we found the culprit.

The WPRef Plugin

We were reviewing a piece of content before it got published when we discovered that a couple of the links had a rel=”nofollow” attribute. The content writer who was working on it had no knowledge of how to manually create that type of link (we certainly don’t train people to do that… especially for links that are created intentionally for search engine purposes!), so we knew something was up.

I inquired a little further to find out where the link had come from, and the answer was, “I copied it from another post.”

Hmmmm…. well… I assumed at first that something had crept its way into an earlier post and perhaps it had been duplicated a couple of times. I wasn’t looking forward to hunting down the original link. As I heard someone say recently, it’s like looking for a needle in a needlestack! But then I noticed that there was more than one link acting that way. So… I used the WordPress “preview” function to take a look at how the new post would look, and decided to “view source code” to see if the changes I’d made were taking effect.

That’s when I noticed this:

Every link within the content had been modified with a and a rel=”nofollow” sitewide.

That would be a problem. The site’s being running for a while and there was a significant amount of content.

Digging a little deeper, I found that a plugin had been installed and given the name “WPRef”

We had backed up and upgraded the site to the latest version of WordPress on February 3rd. So… we checked our backup and found that the plugin was not contained in it. On the server, we found (via FTP) that a file called “wpref.php” had been copied to the /wp-content/plugins folder on February 10th.

Not only had the plugin been placed in that folder, it had been activated.

Checking a little deeper, we discovered that the plugin’s only function was to add a tag and a “nofollow” attribute to every outbound link in the site’s content.

This amounts to a very specific, malicious attack. The only purpose of it can be to cause Google (and other search engines too) to ignore the site’s links.

Needless to say, I was infuriated. We’ve taken steps to harden that particular site. All my searching and other efforts to find evidence that others have encountered a hack like this have turned up nothing. It appears that (at least for now) this is a one-off, one-shot hack job. It’s hard not to believe that this site was specifically targeted on purpose.

The amusing thing was that the plugin added an options panel into the “Settings” menu. Within that, it output a bunch of gibberish, including some Russion domain names.  In the “Active Plugins” area, it purported to have “code.google.com” as its “plugin site” and its author was listed as, “Sergei Brin.” I was so distracted by the infuration and frustration of the whole thing that I failed to recognize that it wasn’t just a Russian-sounding name to match the other Russian references… it’s the (botched) name of the famous Google co-founder.

Humorous.

So… we’ve saved a copy of this little piece of php code. Obviously, we’ve removed it from the site in question and have tested the site out. Our links are back to normal now. Presumably, this client’s search engine rankings will return back to their prior positioning. Actually, since the rankings were declining, we’ve stepped up the game for this client with some additional efforts and so the rankings should actually move higher than ever. So… if this was, in fact, a malicious attack which singled out this particular business… the plan has backfired.

Thanks. Whoever you are.

Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?

Ok… admit it. You’ve done it. We all do it. You’ve probably done it lately.

C’mon… tell me…

“How often do you Google yourself?”

Well it’s fun to see where you rank. But if you own a business, it’s critical today to rank #1 on your own name. If you serve a local market, you should at least rank #1 on your own name in your city.

However, as I’ve pointed out again and again to audiences all over the globe when speaking… ranking on your own name isn’t really marketing. It’s customer service. (Ok… it’s also brand protection, which is a marketing function, but let’s not get nit-picky here.)

What Are Your Customers Searching For?

A far more useful idea, however, is to rank #1 (or at least near the top) in Google and those other search engines on phrases that likely buyers will use when they’re searching for the stuff you sell.

For example, if you happened to be looking for a place to eat out in my city (I live and work in the paradise known as Sarasota, Florida), you might run a search like:

“fondue Sarasota”

or

“buffalo wings Sarasota”

Admittedly, you probably aren’t real likely to run both of those searches on the same day… For a nice evening out, my wife and I really enjoy fondue together. And I personally can’t seem to drag her kicking and screaming to a wings joint (happens maybe once every 2-3 years), so I go there for lunch when possible with friends that enjoy hot wings… since one of the local places is my favorite restaurant in the entire world!

But I digress…let me get to the point.

“Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?”

If you happen to be the owner (or manager) of, say…

  • Dylan’s Fondue Fusion
  • The Melting Pot
  • Wings N Things
  • Wings N Weenies

…don’t you think you would contact the marketing firm that owns the website that ranks #1 in Google on the above searches?

For the record, I never really set out to rank #1 on those terms. I just happen to have decided randomly one day to write about those topics. And I happen to know what tools to use to market a local business! And I happen to use those tools myself… so… rankings happen.

You know they’re running those Google searches from time to time, right? I mean seriously… you need to know where your business ranks on those kinds of terms. And you would want (I would think) to do everything in your power to make sure that you had good positioning… so…

In case you’re wondering… yes, we help businesses with search engine rankings. But as I recently pointed out on our small business marketing blog, rankings are only a piece of the puzzle. More importantly, we train small businesses how to be their own best marketers so that they can consistently attract customers in cost-effective ways — both online and offline.

Now… if you’re in a critical situation and need rapid help with the results you’re getting from your website, our website performance assessment is a great place to start.

Otherwise, you can contact us to learn more about how we can help you grow your business!

David Johnson of Epiphany Marketing Appears on Faith Life Now

David Johnson, founder of Epiphany Marketing, LLC appears this week on airings of the Faith Life Now broadcast with Gary & Drenda Keesee.

David is a Sarasota, Florida-based author, speaker, trainer and consultant who specializes in helping small businesses communicate and attract customers in the 21st Century. On the program, which airs on the Daystar and NRB television networks as well as on a local Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, David and hosts Gary & Drenda Keesee talk about the opportunities that exist in this economy for new business ideas.

I have a fundamental philosophy. Never waste a good crisis!
-David G. Johnson

As a trainer and consultant, David and his company deliver value to clients in the marketplace by helping small business owners and their teams understand the most effective ways to get the message out about their products and services.

As a speaker, David challenges audiences in both the business context as well as in conferences, seminars and churches where he is known as a challenging and inspiring speaker and Bible teacher. His organization, Nourish The Dream, was established to encourage entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs as well as others who are working to integrate their faith and their working lives.

Learn more about Nourish The Dream and the Kingdom Thoughts audio teaching series being offered on the television program here.

The Machine That Goes “Bing!”

And now for something completely different: In a bizarre move, Microsoft does something brilliant.

At first I thought,

“Well… they grabbed a 4-letter domain name that’s easy to remember… they couldn’t possibly have intended to connect it to the Monty Python sketch…”

That was when I first started seeing the bing.com commercials about the tangential search results. The commercials are humorous, although for me they purport to solve a problem I don’t have.

But now… they started using the funny little high-pitched male voice saying, “Bing!”

And really… what Python fan in the world could forget this moment from The Meaning of Life?

Until Apple managed to emerge from the 1990s somehow still in business, I had always thought of Microsoft as a corporation that was brilliant in its marketing. In retrospect, my admiration was actually aimed at what I would now classify as business strategy. Apple is without question a brilliant marketing machine, and to say they’ve successfully trumped Microsoft in that department is like saying that Alexander the Great had some military victories.

But I must admit… the “Bing!” thing is a brilliant marketing move on many levels.

Whether the “new” search engine actually offers any unique value remains to be seen.

Now Revolution Conference with Gary Keesee

Gary Keesee at the Now Revolution Conference

Just flew back in yesterday from this weekend’s “Now Revolution Conference” in Columbus, Ohio, where it was my honor to have the opportunity meet with quite a few entrepreneurs, business owners, and future business owners to talk about marketing in the 21st Century.

My wife and I met Gary and Drenda Keesee last year when they were in town for the Sarasota Financial Revolution Conference. Since that time, they’ve completely revamped the conference, giving it a new name and a new focus. They’ve also completed construction on “The Now Center” in New Albany, Ohio — just outside of Columbus. This past weekend, they hosted the first major conference in that facility and it was absolutely stellar.

Gary’s message is targeted at helping individuals discover and pursue their God-given destiny and to unashamedly achieve financial freedom in the process. These are issues that I’m personally very passionate about, which is the reason that we created our Christian entrepreneurship and business excellence events.

I was honored this weekend to share the platform with not just Gary, but the others who had impactful things to share:

  • Drenda Keesee — powerhouse in her on right, having journeyed with, encouraged and motivated Gary in their journey from enslavement to financial freedom. Arguably some of the biggest testaments to her own giftings are their children, whom she home-schooled and developed into some significant young people.  After briefly meeting their daughter, Amy, and son, Tom, I can tell you first-hand that they and their siblings are showing signs of greatness.
  • Johnny Hocott — a key player in the Forward Financial Group who I met several months ago when he spent some time here in Sarasota. Johnny is focused on developing and training new leaders and I’ve seen firsthand some of the fruit of his labors in some of the people here in our city.
  • Mike Healy — a dynamic and compelling motivator and trainer who is clearly out to win! Mike enjoys cagefighting, which I must confess is something I don’t much about… but it sounds, shall we say… violent? Mike and his wife went from getting eviction notices to a 6-figure income in a 12-month time span and has plenty of important things to share with anyone looking to achieve success.

I couldn’t say enough good things about the event staff, from Jason Freudiger and Amy Taylor to the media staff all the way through to the volunteers. The event ran smoothly despite the inevitable last-minute changes and adjustments. Everyone made the experience a pleasant one.

Did We Meet?

If you’re one of the many people I met this past weekend, I have something for you. Leave a quick comment here and let me know who you are so I can e-mail it to you. Also, if you missed the chance to take advantage of the conference specials, I’ll give you a way to do that.