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Look Out for SMS Messaging: Coming Soon to the Business Phone System Near You!

Are we on a roll, or what?!

Over the past two weeks we helped you spy on your own voicemail with instant text transcripts, connected you across the seas with local and toll-free numbers in the UK and Australia, brought you the super-rare species of true 800 numbers—but, at Synclio, we never sleep (we actually do, just in case someone from the labour-board is reading) and we’ve got even more coming your way!

“So what’s in store today?” you ask. Don’t start getting antsy. We won’t keep the suspense up—for long...

SMS Enabled Phone Numbers

That’s just a fancy way of saying you’ll be able to send and receive SMS text messages over the local or toll-free phone number associated with your virtual PBX service.

Why would I want to send/receive SMS messages over my business phone system?

That’s a good question. You may think that SMS messages are only good for casual stuff, like your wife reminding you to get milk or your kid texting from the back seat a friendly ‘are we there yet?’—but a late 2010 study conducted by Nielsen paints a revealing picture.

SMS is Popular

First, let’s crunch some numbers:

Teens between the ages 13-17 averaged 3,339 text messages per month, or 6 texts an hour (that's per teen!).

If you’re thinking ‘oh, but they’re just babies’, ask any mother and she’ll tell you just how fast these babies grow. They are your future customers. With baby-girls leading the race at 4,050 texts/month and baby-boys right behind at 2,539 texts/month, it’s evident that SMS is their preferred method of communication.

Indeed, of the 3,000 teens questioned, 43% maintained texting was their top reason for having a mobile phone in the first place (‘Safety’ came at a respectable second). It’s not very surprising either, considering it’s short, impersonal, mostly free—perfectly fitting our terse, socially-awkward, and cash-strapped little darlings.

And it’s not a fad of adolescence either. The grown-babies (ages 18-24) texted 1,630 messages/month (or thrice per hour); the older generation (25-34) scratched 1000; their elders (35-44) pushed well over 500; even their seniors had some finger activity on the mini QWERTY keyboards, all the way to up to age 64.

And we’re not talking babies that grew up with a ‘Pacifier’ app on their smartphones...

SMS is practical

But it’s not only the almighty hip-cool-fun factor that drives SMS usage up. “78 percent of teens recognize the functionality and convenience of SMS” said the Nielsen blog “considering it easier (22 percent) and faster (20 percent) than voice calls”.

So even the youngest members of our pop-culture realize the utilitarian value of text messaging; there’s practical grace on the other side of social grace. The cup is half full!

SMS is Cost-effective

We’ve all rediscovering the virtue of frugality during the last economic downturn. Penniless teens or over-credited adults—most of us still feel the crunch and can use all the break we can get, especially with the uncertain times ahead. But even if everything was peachy and rosy—why pay more than we absolutely have to?

Voice-calling not only involves long wait times and frustration, it’s also expensive. That’s why many customers and businesses have adopted emails, instant chat, and social platforms for resolving different queries. Personally, even with free calling options, I still won’t call a business unless I ABSOLUTELY have to. I’d much rather use instant chat.

Social platforms and SMS take after the same idea.

How will it work?

Simple. Customers text your business phone number just like they would any other mobile number. The message is then routed by our system to the account’s admin, who receives it in his email inbox and our mobile app. From this point, he can respond to the client directly or forward the message to any other team member for follow up.

This is the basic functionality as we first roll out this new feature. We’ll later incorporate more advanced options and permission settings based on customer input and experience.

How much will it costs?


Sending and receiving SMS over your phone system will cost you 5 cents/msg, inbound or outbound. You only pay for what you use, when you use it.

Your customers:

This will depend on each customer’s mobile plan and provider, but most plans generally include a generous amount of free messages, and then there are many other ways a customer can send SMS messages for free.

When will the service come out and how can I start using it?

The new SMS enabled phone number feature is due to roll out over the next few weeks. We’ll put up another post here on the blog as soon as it goes live and blast the news far and wide over our Twitter network. Follow us @Synclio to get a ‘heads up’.

You’ll be able to start using the service right away.


The business of a business owner is adapting to his customers. Being where they are will help you generate leads. Offering services they like will help you convert them. Adopting the contact options they prefer will help your retain them. Business is ultimately about offering variety. You don’t have to offer everything that’s out there, but you do need to offer what your customers want.

SMS over your business phone is just another option; another means for customers to reach you. And you don’t pay unless they use it, so it's really aces all around.

posted by Anonymous @ 12:59 PM

We’ve got the Real Deal: True 800 Numbers Now Available!

Boy oh boy, are we excited!

You know when you were a kid and got this awful craving for cookies but there were no cookies in the jar—you ransacked the kitchen cupboards, combed through the drawers, nearly climbed the walls with madness, and just then, as desperation was starting to set in...jackpot!—you discovered mom’s secret stash? That’s how excited we are!

What are true 800 numbers?

True 800 numbers (for those that may have been frozen solid for the past century a la Mel Gibson in ‘Forever Young’) are toll-free telephone numbers that start with the original and much-sought-after ‘800’ prefix. Take Oil, Gold, Uranium, Plutonium, Avatar’s Unobtainium—yes, even cookies—mix them all into a single uber-scarce resource that would make a mermaid’s tear seem like an easy catch, and a true 800 number will still be harder to come by.

So why are we so excited? Because we’ve just managed to get our soiled little fingers into the secret stash and grab ourselves a handful of the real deal!

Why would I want one?

We discussed the differences between toll-free area codes in an earlier post and mentioned that, while all prefixes are equal from a utilitarian standpoint, people’s awareness and perception are a different story. We also mentioned that, while such possible differences are mostly negligible with newer codes, the one that clearly stands apart as an exception is the original 800 prefix. It simply has had three decades to saturate our culture and absorb the perceived prestige of major brands. So, whether we like it or not, people are naturally inclined to associate trust, credibility, and authority with a true 800 number more than with any other prefix.

Is it something that will make or break your company?

Probably not; it takes more than a fancy phone number to build a successful enterprise.

But is it something that can help a young company appear well-established and get more trust and credibility as a launchpad?

Very likely.

How do I get one?

If you’re already a customer, you can look up a true 800 number right from your dashboard. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll have to sign-up first—simply cruise over to our website and take advantage of our free trial offer or give us a call at 800.750.6878 and we’ll help set you up.

True 800 numbers will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, for $10/month.

Keep in mind that due to the limited supply we cannot guarantee availability.

Why do you charge a fee for true 800 numbers and not for any other toll-free code?

Scarcity and high-demand naturally tend to drive prices up—that’s just a fact of economics. We fought tooth-and-nail to grab a small share of true 800 numbers and bring choice to our customers. These numbers cost us significantly more than other toll-free prefixes, and so we simply have to pass on some of that added cost.

There are plenty of 888, 866, and 855 toll-free numbers available free of charge that most of our clients will find perfectly suitable. However, for those specifically interested in a true 800 number and willing to pay a small premium for it, we now also have that option.

Here's to the real McCoy!

posted by Anonymous @ 2:15 PM

The Inbound Marketing Revolution: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing - what’s the Difference, and what's it to you?

The marketing world has experienced something of a revolution over the past decade: Outbound Marketing, previously King of the domain, has been largely overthrown by Inbound Marketing, an adversary of smaller means and proportions, but equipped with great resolution and a far more sensible approach. It’s a case of David and Goliath; of carefully aimed slings opposite blind momentum; of Mind vs. Might...

Let’s cut through the hype to see what it’s all about!

What’s Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing, as explained by Hubspot’s Rick Burns represents the traditional marketing approach where “companies focus on finding customers. They use techniques that are poorly targeted and interrupt people, [such as] cold-calling, print advertising, T.V. advertising, junk mail, spam and trade shows.”

The problem with this approach is that it tends to be:

  1. Expensive. TV ads, print advertising, trade shows, etc require a big budget, which many smaller businesses simply can’t afford.
  2. Non-targeted. These mediums don’t have the means to target specific users beyond a very crude approximation (i.e. ‘X’ demographic is likely to watch ‘Z’ show) and so largely resort to bombarding a broad audience in the hope of hitting one or two members who’ll find the message relevant.
  3. Irritating. The whole concept of outbound marketing relies on getting in the way of people’s day-to-day activities to get noticed. At the root, it’s based around an inherent conflict of interests between the advertiser and his prospects, which isn’t the best way of getting off to a good start.

As a result, traditional Outbound Marketing techniques have been growing less-effective, with audiences finding the means to block them using tools like spam blockers, ad strippers, caller ID, etc.

What’s Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing, on the other hand, “is marketing focused on getting found by customers” (again, quoting Hubspot). More than just a change in methodology, this indicates a radically different approach to marketing philosophy: instead of getting in the way of people and essentially forcing them to hear your message, Inbound Marketing is concerned with putting out value—through blogs, videos, eBooks, webinars, etc—that people will come upon in the course of doing their research, find helpful, and voluntarily proceed to interact with you.

This is a far more sensible approach that naturally resolves the aforementioned problems. It’s:

  1. Less expensive. Inbound Marketing effectively slices the cost per lead compared to Outbound Marketing—62%, to be precise. Here, creativity and dedication count more than deep pockets.
  2. Targeted. Since you get people who are already pursuing research related to your service or product, they’re more likely to be interested in hearing your message and becoming viable leads.
  3. Common interest. Instead of interrupting people in their daily activities, inbound marketing invites them of their own accord. There’s no conflict of interests, but rather a shared interest based on mutual benefaction. Rather than declaring war, here marketing is an act of trade.

As a result, Inbound Marketing can prove far more effective at generating qualified leads, especially for small businesses with limited resources but creativity and dedication in abundance.

What’s the bottom line?

While some may debate the question of Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing as a matter of semantics—or whether there even is a question—the fundamental shift in philosophy from push to pull or from interruption to interaction, is very real and welcomed. Traditional marketing didn’t set out to be a tyrant but rather became so by necessity; there simply wasn’t the technology back then to allow what the internet makes possible today. Perhaps in this respect Inbound Marketing is more an evolution than a revolution.

There’ll likely be a place for both as different businesses with varying means vie for a place in the sun, but it’s the degree to which each will embrace the newly emerged philosophy that will determine the ultimate success of future marketing campaigns—big or small, micro or macro, Inbound or Outbound.

For an example of how the latter has already embraced this principle one needs look no further than the latest blockbuster—product placements in TV and Film are a subtler form of Outbound marketing that isn’t based on interruption. They may not offer as much value to prospects as a blog or a video, but they also aren't so intrusive as to turn them off.

For the rest of us though who can’t afford to get our face or product up there on the silver-screen, Inbound Marketing is probably a more feasible way to go.

Related Articles:

  1. 5 Tips to Help You Effectively Use Landing Pages to Generate More Qualified Leads
  2. Google’s New Direction: Content is King
  3. Google Panda Update: The Dawn of a New World Wide Web?
  4. Inbound Marketing University: a Great Resource for Small Business Owners
  5. Know Your Leads: A Look at How Call Stats Can Help Improve Your Marketing Performance

posted by Maty Grosman @ 7:37 AM

We Now Offer Local and Toll-Free Numbers in the UK and Australia

When it rains it pours—and when it snows, it really snows!

Last week, we brought Santa in early this year to send you off into the weekend with a brand new voicemail transcription feature. As it happens, the old man dipped a tad too deep into the liquor last night and hasn’t quite recovered his senses, so it looks like the holiday season is here to stay.

And what’s under the tree this time around?

[Drum roll please]

Local and Toll-free phone numbers for the UK and Australia.

Tea cups and kangaroos—is that cool, or what?!

You can now communicate with your clients in the former Empire and in the Land of Oz at local rates, just as if you were tuning your wristwatch by the Big Ben or watching 'Big Ben' on the big stage at the Sydney Opera House.

Once and for all, forget all about long-distance charges. Happy Aussies, happy Brits, happy Americans—a real Anglo-Saxon celebration!

Add an International Number to any plan

An international number can be added to any of our price-plans for no additional fee. This means that virtually all our US customers can get one, whether they’ve been good or bad.

You’ll have to give us a call at 1-800-750-6878 at the moment to have one set up—but in a month or so we’ll have international numbers integrated into our back-end so you’ll be able to do it all by yourself, just like you did when choosing your local or toll-free US number.

Local Sites coming soon to the United Kingdom and Australia

But that’s not all. If you thought we only share the festivities with North Americans—boy, have you got us wrong.

In 2-3 months, we’ll be rolling out local sites in both the UK and Australia, so if you own a business in either of those fine countries you’ll soon be able to start using our awesome service too—and this means today’s news applies to you, vis a vis.

You’ll not only be able to get local and toll-free numbers to serve your local clients, but dip into the pool of local and toll-free numbers here in the US to reach your North American audience.

So now you have it. Pints and ponies all around!

Related Articles:

  1. Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number
  2. Does Your Business Need a Vanity Phone Number?
  3. A Brief History of Toll-Free Phone Numbers
  4. What are the Different Toll-Free Area Codes, and is there Any Real Difference Between Them?
  5. Synclio Goes International: New Website Launched in China

posted by Maty Grosman @ 11:48 AM

5 Tips to Help You Effectively Use Landing Pages to Generate More Qualified Leads

Landing pages are simple web forms used to gather information from prospects and turning them into leads. Used effectively, they are an incredible lead-generating tool. Used ineffectively, they’re nothing but a nuisance and can actually achieve the opposite.

The following tips will help you leverage landing pages successfully:

Don’t set up a gateway that leads nowhere

A landing page effectively acts as a gateway, asking prospects to enter information in exchange for accessing something of value. But for some reason, many businesses seem to forget that ‘exchange’ bit and expect prospects to simply give out their information. That’s unrealistic. When we give some, we expect to get some. Putting up a landing page without offering an incentive on the other end is like setting up a collection booth next to a wall and expecting people to start lining up.

Don’t build your gateway too narrow

Most people reach your website in the data-gathering stages of their buying process. This means that they’re not ready to make a purchase yet. So if the only landing page you’ve got is under ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Get a Quote’, you’re basically targeting only those visitors who are already seriously contemplating a purchase. But what about the other 90%? What if you were to target them as well by offering tools to aid their research? This could be an opportunity to establish trust and to gradually nurture prospects into viable leads. A much gentler approach, isn’t it?

Here are some ideas for incentives you can offer:

  • A free report or a guide
  • A free eBook about your industry or space
  • A free web event (workshop, lecture, etc)
  • A free product trial
  • A free downsized version of your product

Keep the incentive proportionate to the price.

We all have an intrinsic barometer to measure value—and nobody likes overpaying. People try to avoid providing personal information because they don’t care to be bothered, and the more potentially intrusive an item of information is, the more leery they’re likely to be. So you must keep your offer proportionate to the information you’re requesting, and enticing enough to win over their reservations. For example, a free report might get you an email address—but a prospect will think twice about forsaking their phone number. A free product trial, on the other hand, might seem more reasonable.

Keep the number of fields to a minimum.

Hand in hand with the nature of information is the number of fields a prospect is requested to fill in before getting on the other side of that form. Each added step is an added opportunity for them to stop and reconsider the whole idea, especially if it’s starting to try their patience. Obviously, content of greater value may warrant more information, but you’d still do better keeping the fields to a minimum. Only ask for information you really need. For instance, if you’re setting up a lending page targeting a very general audience at early stages of research in exchange for a free report, do you really need their age, phone number, etc? Perhaps it would be enough at this point to just get their name and email address, making the form a breeze to fill in, and then use their email address for further lead nurturing.

Don’t forget the importance of courting.

You wouldn’t try to jump into bed on a first date, would you? You’d first take the time to get acquainted, establish trust, and feel comfortable in one another’s company. So you shouldn’t try to make a sale on your first email or phone call either. Ask yourself where the prospect is along the conversion line—what’s their level of trust, knowledge, comfort—and work on the areas that need more attention. If they’re at the research stage, for instance, send them some relevant information or invites via email. Always be there prepared to assist. By providing the nourishment and support needed for their resolution to ripen, you stand a good chance of ultimately being there to pick the fruit of their conviction—and your effort.


‘Ask not what can my prospects do for me, but what can I do for my prospects’

This mantra should be written over the desk of anyone hoping to generate more qualified leads online. The importance of Value cannot be overstated in an environment where establishing yourself as an authority is no less important than closing sales. The value you provide might very well be used by people who never will (or never even intend to) become your clients—but that’s just part of the process, and you shouldn’t let it dissuade you. To the contrary, these users help you too by increasing the buzz around your space and promoting your prominence as a thought leader. So everyone’s a winner!

Related Articles:

  1. Know Your Leads: A Look at How Call Stats Can Help Improve Your Marketing Performance

posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:25 AM

Instant Voicemail Transcripts Delivered Straight into Your Email Inbox

Ho, ho, ho!

Whoever said we can’t have Christmas in July?

Unlike others, who may be more patient, at Synclio we couldn’t wait long enough for grandpa winter to show up, so we’ve decided to throw some turbo jets under his sleigh and make it snow early this year.

What’s in Santa’s goodie bag to send you off into the weekend?

Voicemail Transcripts!

That’s right—you can now enjoy text transcripts delivered right into your email inbox and always at your finger-tips. Best of all, you can start using this cool feature right away, no activation or hassles required on your end!

So if you can’t turn on the audio, don’t have time to deal with automated prompts, or simply get the heebie-jeebies at the screechy sound of your boss’s voice—we’ve got you covered. As of today, a text transcript of every voicemail message will be included with the email copy you’re already receiving in your mailbox, and will be available via our upcoming mobile app as well.

Sure, text-to-speech technology isn’t 100% accurate yet, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be useful—Weather Forecasting isn’t an ‘exact science’ either but can still prepare you for a potentially rainy drive. Similarly, a text transcript on your way to the office can warn you in advance of the impending climate. And the occasional mismatch is sure to leave you with a smile.

So go ahead and try it over the weekend, we know you’ll love it.

posted by Maty Grosman @ 1:26 PM

How to Successfully Use Online Marketplaces to Outsource Jobs and to Find Contractors

They say success is where opportunity meets preparation. In the world of commerce, opportunity (the employer) and preparation (contractors) have always faced the challenge of finding each other on that elusive crossroad. It’s no wonder then that the Internet, as the largest communications highway, has become the platform of choice for intersecting the two.

Marketplaces like oDesk, Elance, or (to name a few) have emerged and offer a robust one-stop-shop for facilitating the entire process, from evaluation and hiring to payment and review. This can be a of great value to small and medium size businesses, considering the amount of time and resources they can save on salaries and administrative tasks.

Here’s a simple guide that will help you use them effectively:

Choosing a marketplace

Before you get started, take some time to determine which marketplace is right for you (here’s a list of 10 popular outsourcing sites). Then, go over the Terms and Conditions.

  • Know your rights and obligations while using the platform.
  • Make sure you understand the payment structure and how it's distributed.
  • Find out the financial options available.
  • Know your recourse in the event of a dispute.

Determining your budget

Once you’ve chosen your platform and reviewed the governing terms, comes time to count your chips.

  • What's the job worth to you/how much can you afford? There are many ways to determine what a position or a given job is worth to you (this Suite101 article can give you some helpful ideas). You can also investigate the going rate for employees in your local market using a service like Payscale. This will give you at least one solid line to use as a benchmark. A contractor in your region should generally cost less than an employee, and an overseas contractor should be cost-effective when compared to a contractor in your region. These are, of course, only guidelines, and the decisive factor will be the quality of work an individual can deliver.
  • Look up bids for similar jobs in the marketplace. Try to find jobs where the scope, nature, company size, and quality expectations closely resembled your own (avoid comparing apples to oranges). For instance, if you need a highly specialized article written by an expert in the medical field for a high profile medical website, don’t compare it to a simple copy commissioned by some Internet marketer for his affiliate product page. Follow the link (whenever available) or try searching Google for the end product to get an idea of the value that was purchased at that given price point.
  • Consider if the job is appropriate for overseas contractors. Perhaps the biggest innovation of using online marketplaces is the ability to trade directly with overseas contractors. Outsourcing overseas is a great way to economize while supporting an emerging economy, and can be advantageous on both sides. Just keep in mind that not all tasks take equally well to the conversion. Generally, technical projects (coding, programming, etc) tend to do better than language oriented tasks (writing, translation, etc) if only because they rely on a universal language the world round and not as dependent upon cultural and regional influences (slang, idioms, etc). Again, that’s just a general guideline, and there can always be exceptions to the rule.
  • You always get what you pay for. You may have heard the saying: “there’s a difference between looking for a bargain and looking for a rip-off”. A bargain offers value to both parties, even if one side gets the longer end of a stick. A rip-off, on the other hand, is purely one sided (the value gained by the second party usually doesn’t justify the trouble or expense incurred). Don’t set yourself to failure by harboring unreasonable expectations. You’ve probably learned to stir clear of anything that looks too good to be true while shopping online for products—now, don’t make the mistake of asking ‘too good to be true’ to come find you as you shop for services.

Creating your job posting

You’ve learned the rules of engagement and figured out how much you have to play with. Now comes time to sit at the table.

  • Provide a detailed description of the job so that bidders will know exactly what they’re bidding on. Resist the temptation to skim over the job description or to use something generic—spending a bit more time now will save you hours of plowing through unqualified applications later.
  • Be selective about special criteria or skills. While indicating mandatory qualifications will help you receive more qualified applications, over-qualifying a position can actually work against you. For instance, suppose you need to get a video edited. It’ll be a good idea to specify a particular NLE software (i.e. Final Cut Pro) if there’s a decisive reason this software must be used (compatibility, etc). However, if you only mention it because someone told you Final Cut is the best—guess what, you’ve just excluded many qualified users that simply choose to use different tools and effectively narrowed your pool of talent. So qualify only what’s mandatory. You can always narrow it down further down the road.

    (Education too can be a double-edged sword. Many freelancers are self-taught. So again, unless you have a clear reason for demanding academic criteria, you may do better judging them by merit.)

  • Indicate your budget. This will set a benchmark and help further qualify your applicants: your time won’t be wasted by applications priced out of your range, and vice versa. Furthermore, some contractors (especially those who are more qualified and attach a higher value to their time) will simply not bother responding to a posting with no budget indication.
  • Include your company’s name and website. Trust is where eCommerce starts and ends. Just as you want to be sure you’re dealing with a reputable person when choosing a contractor (as discussed below), so you’ll want to make it easy for contractors to trust you. While online platforms take measures to protect both providers and purchasers of service, if you already have a website, providing a link can be a quick and simple way of establishing your online presence.

Hiring a contractor

So you've put the word out and got plenty of responses. Now comes time for choosing.

  • Look at the Contractor’s Feedback score and history. Feedback is the online barometer of trust. But while a high feedback score is certainly a good place to start, you may want to dig a bit deeper and look at the number of jobs the feedback score is based on, as well as the dollar value of each job. How do they compare to yours? It’s usually easier to satisfy a client when you have a lower price-tag than it is the other way around. Consider how much you are likely going to spend, and check if the contractor you’re considering has handled something of similar magnitude before.
  • Ask to see work samples. Works samples give you a chance to evaluate the contractor’s actual ability. If the samples are dated, ask if they have something more recent. Preferably, try to get samples for projects completed over that freelance marketplace, so that you may go back and look up the attached terms to get a better sense of value.
  • Ask for a pilot if a contractor lacks feedback or samples but you’d still like to give them a shot. Don’t ask for a 1500 words article or a fully functional iPhone app; perhaps a short entry or simple applet, basically to show you that they're serious. Better still, let them come up with a proposition. Just be reasonable in your expectations and you’ll find many will be forthcoming.

    Of course, keep in mind that pilot projects are meant for unproven contractors looking to gain some trust. Don’t approach someone already established on that platform and expect them to take kindly to the idea.

Resolving disputes

While most transactions go smoothly, there may be times when you'll have to work out a dispute.

  • Always communicate first, don't just leave negative feedback. Feedback is extremely important in an online marketplace and can make or break a contractor’s profile. Misunderstandings can happen naturally (especially with overseas contractors, where a language barrier may exist), and it’s only fair to give the benefit of doubt.
  • Try to reach an understanding if there is a disagreement. Avoid assigning blame and instead try to come from a positive place to work out a solution.
  • Contact the marketplace administration for dispute resolution. While for the most part both contractors and employers are reasonable people, there is always the odd bunch. If communication fails, file a ticket or contact the platform’s administration for support. Most online marketplaces offer some form of arbitration or dispute resolution.

Keeping these things in mind will help you successfully utilize virtual marketplaces for hiring and managing an online workforce, whether they're your local employees or overseas professionals.

Good luck!

posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:54 PM

Google’s New Direction: Content is King

Our previous blog post indicated that Google’s Panda update was only part of a bigger effort to turn the web publishing world back right-side-up, giving quality content the weight over mere quantity and SEO. We’ve also featured the 24 questions Google offered as guidance to understanding their new direction. Now, let’s look at what this means for you content.

A quick note: since Google is aiming to do the right thing here (whether or not they’re going about it the right way, which remains to be seen), this article will NOT be peddling the next SEO tricks to circumvent their efforts. Instead, we’ll follow in the spirit of Panda and look at content from the user’s perspective, and how it can improve your Google pagerank.

For specific SEO tips, there are many sources on the web already. One good summery was given on the SEOptimise blog titled ‘30 (New) Google Ranking Factors You May Over- or Underestimate’.

Now, without further ado...

Defining Quality

As mentioned previously, quality is tricky to define when it comes to search engine bots that can only deal with quantifiable terms. So Google’s process involved identifying certain attributes of websites that users and testers appreciated more than other.

From the guiding questions, several categories emerge. These can be grouped into three classes:

  1. Trust, Credibility, and Authority
  2. Originality and Value
  3. Style, Grammar, and Best Practices

Trust, Credibility, and Authority

From an SEO standpoint, it’s no secret that authority is largely influenced by back-links. But when a user arrives on your page he has no way of knowing what’s going on in the background. He has only your brand, content, and layout to go by.

Some organizations have reached a point where their reputation precedes them and commands implicit trust. But what about the rest of us who aren’t quite there yet? How can we lend credibility to our own content and make it trustworthy?

In a word: sources.

If you are not an authority on a given subject, refer to someone who is. There’s a reason citations and the use of sources are standard practices in Journalism. They indicate three things:

  • That you’ve done your research and know what you’re talking about.
  • That someone else corroborates the information you’re providing
  • That this someone isn’t your buddy, but an authority on the subject

Avoid throwing numbers around or statements like: ‘studies show...’ or ‘it has been demonstrated...’ without referencing the relevant studies or sources.

Also, be careful when choosing sources. The web is adding 150,000 URLs daily, so it’s safe to assume there’ll be someone, somewhere, saying pretty much anything. Your responsibility is to make sure the ‘someone’ you choose to quote actually knows what they’re talking about. Writer’s Resources has a link with great tips for evaluating web sources.

By consistently providing trustworthy (read: corroborated) information, you may gradually earn credibility and grow to become an authority yourself.

(Appearance can influence trust as well, we’ll touch on that below)

Originality and Value

These pertain to the fundamental purpose of your page: is it about the content, or is the content just an excuse for your page? Is your primary intent to say something meaningful and valuable with the potential of enriching your readers, or are you just stringing them along and will ultimately waste their time?

This is especially important in our SEO-centric times, with competition escalating for that search engine sweet-spot. But SEO is a new field, and there are no straight cut answers, only techniques. Some work. Some don’t. Some focus on delivering short-term results, while others take into account the bigger picture. Make sure you think ahead when evaluating any given technique or strategy and avoid playing into so-called ‘gray areas’ (doorway pages are a perfect example of how sneaky tricks will eventually get you slammed—just ask BMW).

It’s unlikely that Google will perfect their A.I.s to genuinely discriminate quality anytime soon, so SEO is here to stay and has its proper place in your virtual toolbox. But publishing comes with a responsibility: to add value. You wouldn’t rob a man of his hard-earned cash with fly-by-night schemes, so you shouldn’t rob him of his time with useless, generic, and non-focused verbiage.

Style, Grammar, and Best Practices

If some ragged figure on the street began spouting health tips you’d probably not even stop to consider whether his words have any merit. That’s because, like it or not, appearances tell us something about people. It’s the same with websites. The World Wide Web is your street and a website is your storefront. If it looks sluggish, tattered, cluttered, or otherwise disingenuous—you’ll be passed by and ignored. To be taken seriously, you must look professional.

A polished website will help inspire trust—or, at the very least, will not throw up any red-flags, giving your content a chance to speak for itself. But a rough design laden with ‘salesy’ copy, grammatical errors, or apparent ignorance of Journalistic best practices, will inevitably undermine your credence, even if the content is otherwise genuine.


Whether you write your own content or delegate the task to somebody else, keeping these things in mind and maintaining a level of quality control is crucial to the long-term success of your website and business. Good content will not only help you rank well in search engines and draw people to your site, it will keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Remember, the goal of inbound marketing is not only to be found—but to be found useful. That’s a big difference.



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Google Panda Update: The Dawn of a New World Wide Web?

posted by Maty Grosman @ 10:17 AM

Google Panda Update: The Dawn of a New World Wide Web?

Google Panda has been making headlines lately for attacking unsuspecting websites in the World Wide Bush—but, according to Google’s official webmaster’s blog, Panda is just half the trouble for those feeling threatened by the beast. Dozens of other tweaks have been made to their search algorithm since the update was first let out into the wild in February, part of some 500 improvements expected to roll out by the end of the year.

(To find out if your website got hit, check out Mark Nunny’s excellent Google Panda update survival guide)

The Problem

“So why all the ‘bearing’ around” you ask?

Essentially, Google’s effort is commendable: to rank quality content higher. But that’s easier said than done. After all, search robots aren’t endowed with our discriminating tastes (which, even in the world of humans, are regular subjects of dispute), but can only follow a given set of guidelines. So how do we define ‘quality’ in simple terms even a five-year-old robot can understand?

How do we express ‘value’, ‘relevance’, or ‘accuracy’ as a mathematical equation?

Unfortunately, at this point, we simply cannot (it would be interesting to see what happened if Google took a peek under the hood of IBM’s Watson—but that’s another story). All we can do, which is perhaps the next best thing (and what Google did with Panda), is find measurable parameters to work with.

The Solution

In an interview with Wired, Google engineers Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts explained their method involved sending out a questionnaire to outside testers and asking their opinions on various attributes of websites and web-content. That was back in March. Subsequently in April, after Panda went global, Singhal posted an entry on Google’s webmaster’s blog titled ‘More guidance on building high-quality sites’ where he outlined 24 questions publishers should ask themselves. It’s fair to assume these questions are in the spirit of the aforementioned questionnaire.

Unfortunately, the 24 bulleted items appear to have been slammed together rater hastily and in no apparent order. So, for ease of reference, we’ve grouped them here according to categories:

Trust, Credibility, and Authority

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

Originality & Value

  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Style, Grammar, and Best Practices

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?


Amit Singhal suggested that by keeping such questions in mind and focusing on quality instead of guessing what Google's algorithms are up to in the background, publishers will improve their organic search ranking...well, organically. That's certainly a worthy thought. Now, if only they can make it so!

More on Google's 'if you publish quality, they will come' philosophy in our next post.



posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:44 AM

What Does PABX Stand for, and is it Different from a PBX?

The distinction between a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) and a PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange) is perhaps an instance of technology traveling faster than day-to-day language can keep up.

Telephone switches have certainly come a long way since the “carriage bolts...teapot lids, and bustle wire” model first introduced back in 1878—and, as common in the wake of progress, a terminological haze remains clouding the public atmosphere long after that ever whooshing train has whistled by.

So if you're wondering "what is PABX? anyhow?!"—don't worry, you're not alone. Here's a brief overview that will clear things up faster than you can say 'choo choo!'

(Or, if you're really in a rush, skip right down to the bottom line)

The Birth of PBX

In the olden days, telephone calls were routed over the Public Switched Telephone Network to a hive of Switchboard Operators equipped with patch cords, who then manually connected them to the recipient. These telephone exchanges were facilitated by the phone companies. With time, reasons of economics and efficiency encouraged large organization to start their own in-house exchange rooms for local communications, and so Private Branch Exchange was born.

Progress Breeds a Whole Family of Acronyms

As technology moved on from analog to electro-mechanical and finally to electronic switchboards and the process became automated, the general term PBX was sometimes broken down into PMBX (Private Manual Branch Exchange) and PABX (Private Automated Branch Exchange) to differentiate between the two.

Solid state electronic systems were christened with their own acronym as well: EPABX (Electronic Private Automated Branch Exchange).

PBX in the Virtual Age: a Return to the Roots.

Today virtually all PBX systems are automated, so the distinction between PBX (or PMBX) and PABX has become literally obsolete. Even the finer technological varieties are largely a matter of semantics—so with the advent of the latest cloud based digital systems, rather than coining yet another acronym, companies were content to adopt the good old ‘PBX’ with the simple prefix ‘virtual’ or ‘hosted’.

The Bottom Line:

While PABX still has its share of adopters, PBX is the widely used term between the two, and for all practical intents and purposes they are both one and the same—to find a manual switchboard you'd have to visit a museum!



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  3. 5 Reasons Virtual Systems are taking over the Physical World
  4. Walking on Clouds—the Freedom of Going Virtual
  5. 4 Ways a Virtual Phone System Can Improve Customer Experience in Your Business

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 3:22 PM

9 Tips to Help You Maintain Good Phone Etiquette and Professional Best Practices

Talking to customers can be stressful. Many small business owners may feel awkward, shy, or simply lacking the relevant people-skills.

The good news is that a Virtual PBX already gets you off to a good start—it’s generally recommended not to keep a caller waiting beyond the third ring, and your IVR menu kicks in right from the first! So now, since you've already designed a killer call menu, it’s only a matter of keeping the momentum going into the call.

Here are a few simple tips to help you out:

  1. Be positive and energetic, but don’t overdo it. People naturally respond to genuine enthusiasm, just as they intuitively sniff out a fake (think of your favorite TV host as opposed to that guy with the crooked smile from the used-cars commercial—see the difference?). So before you answer the phone, take a moment to put yourself in a good mind space. Some suggest smiling while you speak, but it might be enough to simply avoid being sullen. The important thing is to be focused and genuine.

  2. Friendliness vs. Familiarity. Business communications is really about keeping a balance between personality and professionalism. You want to have character and set yourself apart from others, but at the same time, you also want to maintain a professional image. The difference between friendliness and familiarity embodies this balance. To be friendly is to be courteous, helpful, and allow a touch of good humor. To be familiar, on the other hand, is to cross that boundary and behave in a way that might be appropriate between friends, but utterly unbecoming amongst strangers.

    An example can be something as simple as addressing a caller by the first name, or as absurd as making a wise crack.

    Even if the person you are talking to sounds like a laid back individual, just remember you’re sitting behind an office desk representing a company, so be sure not to cross that fine line. (You’ll be surprised how some people can allow themselves a lot of liberty, but cringe at the slightest remark when coming from the other end)

  3. Listen. When a person calls, let him speak without interruption and pay attention to what he’s saying. You may think that you’ve heard this story a hundred times before—but this is a new caller, with a new situation, and it’s your job to treat it as such. Don’t let complacency get in the way and take you off on a mental excursion. Silence may be golden, but guess what—once he’s finished talking comes your turn to show that you’ve been paying attention.

  4. Be Positive. I was going to say ‘don’t be negative’—but this didn’t really take any more effort. It goes to show just how easy it can be sometimes. Always have your best foot forward and be prepared to help, even if a matter happens to fall outside the scope of your job-title.

    • Instead of ‘I don’t know’ or ‘that’s not my job’, try ‘let me find out for you’
    • Instead of ‘I/we can’t do that’, try 'let me see what I can do’
    • Instead of ‘No!’, try offering an alternative.
  5. You’ve gathered information, now use it. Whether you’re using a CRM utility or manage things manually, make sure you review all previous notes and enter new ones as you go. You don't want callers repeatedly asked the same questions. Remember that they've been probably waiting on hold for a while before getting connected, and your task is to make their experience as expedient as possible. Value their time, and they’ll value your business.

  6. When transferring a call, don’t just pass it along thinking ‘good riddance!’ Notify the caller and make sure the other person is debriefed. Stay on the line and don’t hang up before you’re sure the call has been connected. Introduce the caller to your colleague and don’t neglect to say goodbye (common courtesy is too easily forgotten). It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got the caller’s phone number before you start transferring them so that you may call them back in case you get disconnected. The safest way is to ask for it right at the start of the call.

  7. Be upfront. If there’s something you’re not sure about, say so and offer to find out the answer. If it’s going to take a while, consider offering to hang up and call them back (if they’re calling long-distance) or to schedule a call-back.

  8. If you've scheduled a call-backcall back! Even if you haven’t found an answer yet—if only to say “I’m sorry, I’m still working on it. I’m afraid it’s going to take a bit longer than I thought.” A call-back is an appointment. Meeting it shows that you care about helping the customer, that you value their time, and that you're genuinely doing your best to resolve an issue.

  9. Make sure you give the right information. Lastly, nothing is more frustrating than calling about an issue three different times and getting three different answers. Don’t ad-lib. Don’t take a best guess. A customer calls support to get reliable information, not your opinion. Find out whatever you don’t know and make sure you get it right before you pass it on to the customer.


To sum things up, we’re all customers. We all know what aspects of a service we enjoy, what can be done better, and what REALLY irks us. Just use your own experience and common sense to guide you. It all comes down to the oldest lesson in the book, the Golden Rule of common decency:

"Don't do to others what you don't want done to you"

(or whatever iteration you prefer)

Related Articles

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  3. How a Live Answer Service Can Supplement Your Virtual IVR

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 12:17 PM