Understanding Google’s Top Charts Function

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If you’re a regular devotee to Google Trends, you may have noticed that a “Top Charts” feature was recently unveiled.  If you put a large emphasis on your website, your blog and your web traffic, this new feature is certainly worth exploring. Top Charts allows you to assess where you stand as a business and how you compare with similar competitors in your industry by logging the subjects people are most interested in from a specific industry as determined by overall search habits (not by keywords). By discovering those trending subjects, you can obtain additional insight into your customers’ needs wants and interests and can tailor your business and/or website accordingly—directly improving your site’s traffic and potentially leading to an increase in sales.

What do you think about Top Charts? Tell us how it has helped your business @cocardatlanta.

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Get PCI DSS Compliant

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Though many of you are already aware of the importance and necessity of becoming Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DDS) compliant, CoCard wants to remind you that these industry regulations are absolutely required both for the security of your business and that of your customers. These standards protect you and your customers from credit card fraud and security vulnerabilities and are not to be taken lightly. If you are not yet compliant, you’re putting yourself at risk for incurring astronomical penalty fees and you may lose your ability to process bankcards.

PCI-DSS requirements are imposed by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB International Co. and Discover to protect customers’ account data, and to protect merchants from serious security breaches and damages. These industry-wide requirements affect all merchant account providers and all merchants accepting credit cards.

Adherence to the PCI DSS is ongoing. To avoid monthly PCI non-compliance fees and the possibility of a costly security breach, please call our office at 1-800-317-1819, ext. 2 and ask for compliance assistance. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding PCI DDS compliance.

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On Target

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Many of us are still rattled by Target’s recent security breach, affecting 40 million credit and debit cards nationwide between November 27 and December 15, 2013. Now that these stolen cards have popped up everywhere on the black market, this isn’t just a national problem, it’s a global issue. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel addressed the breach with a message on the corporate website, noting that the company has hired a third-party forensics firm to investigate the incident and insisting that, “there is no indication PIN numbers have been compromised.”

And, while it has certainly been a hardship for the credit card holders attacked, those targeted customers will be reimbursed. In circumstances like this one, it’s the merchants that take the heaviest financial blow, both in terms of fines and in lowered customer support. Aside from the time of year that this occurred and the swarms of people shopping for gifts in Target stores, the breach has been largely attributed to the rise in mobile shopping, and the decrease in shopper verification data—users buying items on their smartphones  want to hit “buy” instantly without having to go through the lengthy security question process.

What’s the next step? According to an article from Forbes, some businesses have switched up the tactics and beefed up security by tapping into social media info as a source of verification data. Start-up company Trustev, for instance, has bulked up its verification service, utilizing around 80 sources including social media info (with the shopper’s permission).

If you suspect you were a victim of this or another credit card breach, report it to your financial institution and the Federal Trade Commission immediately.

Read CoCard’s tips about credit card security here.

What is your business doing to protect customers? Share @cocardatl 

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Give a Little Bit

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You surely stocked up on your fair share of gift cards over the last few months (both as a giver and as a receiver). If that’s gotten you thinking about offering electronic gift cards at your own business (honestly, they make for great presents for any occasion), CoCard is ready to meet your needs! You can choose from denominated or non-denominated, expiring and non-expiring, plus refundable or non-refundable options. We’re happy to provide you with gift cards!

Click here to learn more or give us a call at 800.317.1819. 

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Fight the Flu

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If you forgot to get your flu shot this winter, it’s not too late to get inoculated against this season’s strand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season typically hits its peak in January and February, but can continue as late as May. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu shot. It’s the best protection against seasonal flu. In addition, be sure to avoid close contact with sick people; stay home when you are sick; cover your mouth and nose; wash your hands often; and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Be sure to take extra precautions with your overall health by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, getting plenty of rest, staying active, eating healthfully, staying hydrated and managing stress.

For the full scoop on all things flu-related, click here.

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Kickstart Your Big Idea in 2014

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Perhaps you’re looking to pen your first cookbook but don’t have the extra funds to self-publish or to hire a professional photographer. Or, maybe you’re working on launching your first clothing line but can’t afford airfare to take much-needed buying trips to score that luxe Italian silk that really sets your clothing apart. Kickstarter may just be your secret weapon. The website allows users to upload videos promoting their new product, idea, book, business, food truck, etc. and allows them to accept donations from users by a designated date—so you can meet your mega-fundraising goal and get your project off the ground. Here’s how it works:

  • Grab a few of your friends that excel at writing and compose a script. Practice.
  • Borrow or rent a high-quality video camera to shoot your video. You could even pay an film student at your local college to film it and edit it for you (be sure to give them a credit at the end of the video).
  • Make sure that your message, your product and your image are solid. Know what you’re selling and be sure you can tell people why they need it. How is it different from what is already out there? What will your business or unique product bring to the community?
  • Sell your personal story. Part of the reason why Kickstarter is a successful tool is that it showcases the individuals behind a brand. Let viewers know you, believe in you and want to support you.
  • You need to come up with a money goal. But here’s the deal, you only have until your end date to raise funds. And, it’s all or nothing. For instance, if your goal is $10,000 and you only receive $8,500 by your end date, you don’t bring home any cash and your supporters’ credit cards won’t be charged.
  • Post to social media like it’s your full-time job. You need all the help you can get, and the more views to your Kickstarter page, the greater your chance of meeting your goal!

Check out cool projects like this one at kickstarter.com and start fundraising.

Thinking about posting a project to Kickstarter? Share it with us on Facebook.

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Credit? Check!

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Aside from the convenience it offers to your customers, accepting credit and debit cards can work wonders for your business. A few points you may not have considered about credit card acceptance:

Did you know that 83% of small businesses that accept credit cards not only make more sales, but get paid quicker than their competitors?

Don’t accept credit or debit? You’re missing out on approximately $7,000 in sales annually, which equates to more than $100 billion in collective lost revenue. (Just seems like a waste, doesn’t it?)

Credit cards make purchases convenient for your customers. They also increase the likelihood that your customers will make more frequent impulse buys… which means more money for you.

CoCard offers merchant accounts specifically tailored to retail merchants, restaurants, mail order businesses, e-commerce merchants, wireless merchants, supermarkets and non-profits. Besides their range of processing solutions and affordable, reliable tools for processing credit and debit cards, they also offer extra services like loyalty cards and merchant cash advances. See what you’re missing and contact us today!

 

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Smart Seasonal Marketing

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While your thoughts inevitably tend to drift during this time of year (that forthcoming ski trip, reuniting with distanced relatives), the holidays can potentially serve as a prime time for attracting new customers, too, if you take advantage of smart marketing options. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers these suggestions:

 

  • Post Competitions on Social Media. Use your strong Facebook and Twitter following to remind customers (and potential customers) how incredible your business is. Highlight new brands you have in stock and focus on new cocktails you’ve added to the menu (or delicious pre-made holiday meals) when you introduce fun, money-saving contests for your customers (perhaps a free gift or discount for the customer who snaps the best Instagram pic of a recent shopping experience at your store). Be sure to utilize hashtags to your advantage so you can get the word out beyond your typical social media circle.

 

  • Reward your Regulars. Maybe it’s a free bottle of wine or a complimentary meal. Perhaps it’s a coupon to use over the holidays, or simply a gift-wrapped candle and a card. Acknowledgment that you recognize and value your regulars goes a long way—and may attract additional clients via word of mouth. 

 

  • Share Advice. This month, offer regular snippets of holiday-related advice on your blog and through social media that pertain to your industry. If you’re a restaurant owner, mention cooking suggestions, dietary advice and decorating ideas. If you’re a book store owner, post book reviews of incredible new (or old) fireside reads, or stocking stuffers. Play up your expertise level and use that to attract customers. Be sure to use an original hashtag that highlights your brand.

 

  • Host an Event. It doesn’t have to be big, but throw a holiday-themed soiree or shopping experience and invite your customers. Offer complimentary beverages and discounts for purchases made during the event.

 

  • Amp up Email Marketing. Keep your customers updated on the new arrivals you have at your store, special coupons and new decor through email marketing. Utilize holiday themes, keep messages short and to the point, and stay relevant.
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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Hyperloop

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If you’re a consummate traveler and are constantly hopping from one major city to the next, you’ll be interested in learning about the warp-speed travel break-through from Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. As CNN reported on Aug. 12, Musk’s proposed Hyperloop transportation system would utilize enormous tubes and an air-bearing suspension system to propel passengers at approximately 700 mph, making a trip from LA to San Francisco a 35-minute journey. If the plan comes to fruition, Hyperloop would be faster than commercial flight and twice as quick as the world’s fastest train.

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Ace Your Social Media Presence

social_mediaYou may wonder how your competitors maintain a seemingly constant presence across social media platforms. They tweet, pin and post to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook at all hours of the day. And, while some social media addicts do stay glued to their smartphones 24/7, it’s more likely that they’re actually utilizing social media management tools, like HootSuite, to keep on top of their social media presence in real time.

HootSuite and others like it (see Sprout Social and MarketMeSuite) streamline all of your social media accounts to one page, so you can plan out posts to the minute. Plus, they allow you to keep an eye on social media statistics (ex: How many people view your page? How many likes and how much traffic are you receiving?). For tutorials and webinars, CLICK HERE

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