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Today Data and Web Services, Inc.

Websites, Excel, MS Access, Wordpress, VB, C#, Database

We design and build websites

Ensure a responsive site that will display intelligently on your large desktop screen or your smart phone.

Create special features for your site. Custom features eliminate service calls, provide real-time information to your customers, make it easier for your customers to use your services, and save money.

Computer Consulting

We provide a bridge between technology and your small business needs.

We can provide advice, implementation, ongoing administration or any combination. Shopping carts, appointment systems, store locators, and other apps that make your business run more smoothly.

Microsoft Access and VB6

New MS Access development and legacy Visual Basic 6 application maintenance.

Microsoft SQL Server

MS SQL Server development and implementation.

Reporting

Crystal Reports, MS SQL Server Reporting Services, and other technologies to help you monitor your benchmarks.


Contact form or email link: Which is better?

6/10/2017

How do your website users contact you? Experts used to recommend, and sometimes still do recommend, a contact form to avoid exposing your email to spam. However, with today's better spam filters, we are free to worry less about spam and more about the easier way for our customers to contact us.

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Most users, whether on the desktop or especially on mobile devices, have an email app and clicking on an email link gives them all the advantages of sending email from a familiar interface, of having a record of the email in the "sent" folder, of having the ability to store your email address in their contact list, and of being able to store a draft of their message to you and continue it at a later time. Contact forms provide a poor replacement for a fully developed email app and many users balk at being forced to type into a form. Even users of gmail and similar webmail can still copy and paste your email address into their "to" box.

Phone or tablet users are especially likely to appreciate the ease of using their familiar email app because it has been optimized for smaller devices. At the same time, contact forms may be difficult to use on small devices.

Some users, such as those using library computers, may have no email set up, either on a desktop or on a mobile.device. These users can benefit from a contact form on your site.

My recommendation is to provide both. If you are resource constrained, just provide a link. And don't forget to also "linkify" your phone number for all your mobile device users. Here is how to do both:

<a href="mailto:info@mysite.com">info@mysite.com</a>

<a href="tel:+1-555-555-5555">(555) 555-5555</a>


Google is not human, really! Help it index your website with structured data

4/22/2017

The problem with search engines is that they are not human. Well, almost, but not really. Why not give them a little help with structured data markup? Here is an example.

Read More.


{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "Organization",
"name": "ABC Furniture",
"legalName" : "ABC Furniture Inc",
"url": "http://abcfurniture.com",
"logo": "http://abcfurniture.com/logo.gif",
"foundingDate": "1998",
"founders":  {
"@type": "Person",
"name": "Stan Smith"
} ,
"address": {
    "@type": "PostalAddress",
    "streetAddress": "100 Main St., Unit B",
    "addressLocality": "HomeTown",
    "addressRegion": "MO",
    "postalCode": "63xxx",
    "addressCountry": "USA"
},
"contactPoint": {
    "@type": "ContactPoint",
     "contactType": "customer support",
    "telephone": "[+555-555-5555]",
    "email": "info@abcfurniture.com"
    }
}
            

You can include this in the Head of your Html, which makes it not visible to human readers. This does not replace your human readable content, but gives search engines an easier time understanding and thus letting users know who you are.

There are several flavors to structured markup. The above uses Json-LD which is more convenient than some other forms because you can put all your markup in one place in the head of your page.

Power up your SEO with structured markup.


How does my site look on a tablet or phone?

3/11/2017

Did you know it is easy to see how your site looks on other devices? Here's how you do it using a Chrome browser on your computer.

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Right-click anywhere on a page of your website, then select "Inspect". You can also just key in control-shift-I. You will then see a new panel with a toolbar. There is a little icon on the far left that looks like a cell phone in front of a computer screen. Just click on that icon and you will see options to display your page as it would appear on a variety of devices. For example, a Galaxy S5, an IPhone 6, and IPad Pro, and so on. Just close the new panel to go back to your normal view.Chrome device image

If you don't have Chrome, it is easy to download and install. Just Google "Get Chome" to find and download it.

Mobile friendly websites get better rankings on Google and ensure your customers can view your site because almost 60% of all web traffic today is from mobile devices. We can help you make your site "responsive" so that one web site displays well on many devices.

Does your brochure website need more hits?

7/18/2017

What websites do you visit most often? I'll bet it's for sites that you can "use". You go to Google Maps to get directions, to Facebook and Twitter to communicate with your friends and followers, to Amazon to buy something. You probably also go to several news sites like CNN, the Huffington Post, or the Wall Street Journal websites to read general news content and you probably go to some specialty sites for business or personal reasons. For example, maybe you read the Car and Driver blog for car news or the Motley Fool for investing news. Probably the last thing you do is to go to a site that just lists its services. These are sometimes referred to as "brochure sites".

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If your site is a "brochure site" , it certainly fills a need for your company, It tells the world that your are "open for business" and gives people who already know about your business a lot of valuable information about what you offer and how to contact you. The problem for "brochure sites" is that they don't generally get a lot of visitors. If you are monitoring this type of site with Google Analytics, you are probably pretty disappointed in the lack of visitors and may wonder if your investment in the site was worth the time and money.

There is an opportunity to increase your site traffic and find new customers by adding content pages, usually a blog, that will demonstrate the expertise and knowledge of you and your employees and the value of your company to meet the customer's needs. When you give it some thought, you do have a lot of knowledge about your service that would be of value to others.

Web users can find your blog through Google searches and they don't have to look specifically for your company to read your content.

Even better is to give your users something they can interact with. A real estate company might provide a mortgage calculator and an investment company might create an investment savings calculator. An environmental site might give you an energy footprint calculator.

Websites that provide valuable lists of resources are always the target of searches. For example, a list of "best" almost anything - of course, related to your business.


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Understanding Google Tools and Ghost Traffic

1/9/2017 cartoon ghost  

Tracking the success of your website is just as important as tracking all your other marketing efforts. Google has two free tools for you to track your success.

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Google Search Console will show you all the traffic Google is sending to your website. Once you have registered your site, for example by adding a special metatag to your home page, Google will recognize that you are the owner of the site and begin to collect traffic information for your website.

Google Search Console will show you how many times your website appears in Google listings, how many times Google users click on your site, and what was the average position of your site in the listings. For example, in the Search Analytics section, check the boxes Clicks, Impressions, and Position. In the options below that, choose Pages. You will see, for each page in your site, the number of times Google displayed that page in a search (impressions) , the number of times it was clicked on (clicks), and its average position in the search (postion). Change the option to Queries and you will get the number of times a page in your site appeared sorted by the search text that was typed into Google. And so on.

Google Analytics is the second free tool. After you register your site at https://analytics.google.com. Google will give you a snippet of code that you include in every page you wish to track. Then, every time anyone accesses your web page, this code will notify Google and allow it to accumulate traffic information for you.

These are two different tools. Google Search Console shows you your success in getting listed by Google in searches and Google Analytics shows you detailed information about who used your website and how they used it, once they have found your site. Google Analytics can help you know your customers, but beware ghost traffic.

Ghost traffic is spam. It's fake traffic. Instead of showing you a real hit to your website, you are seeing fake hits. The spammers have never really visited your site, but are able to automate fake hits in Google Analytics using a random number generator to simulate Google Analytics identifiers. For example, when you see referrals from sites that you have never heard of and that you know are not linking to your site, that is a fake hit. Why are the spammers doing this? Perhaps it is to get you, the Analytics user, to click on the referrer. If you do, they have just increased their own real hit rate, by fooling you and possibly selling you a service or product - or even to pass on a virus.

You can control ghost traffic, by setting up filtered views on Google Analytics so that you are viewing just the real hits. Contact us for help with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and any other needs you have for your website.


Tips on getting your website noticed
Google Places

12/5/2016

Most website owners have heard of Search Engine Optimization or SEO. SEO is a process of getting your website to appear at the top of the free or organic listings of Google Search, Bing Search, and other search engines. There are several steps you can take to improve your ranking on the Search Engine Results Page, also known as SERP.

Read More.

However, getting to the top of the SERP can be difficult, even if you research all your keywords and include text that you know your customers want to find. This is especially a problem if your business offers services or products very similar to what many other businesses are offering.

But what your competitors can't offer is your specific location. Google offers you the opportunity to create a "Google Place" for your business. These listings are free and they supplement and link to your website.

Have you noticed that when you type "cafe", that the first free listings to appear are all Google places? And they are all cafes near your current location. It's not just for restaurants. Try typing "electrical supply". Again, the Google places appear first. When I am in my office and type "website designer" , the Today Data & Web Services Google place appears at the top of the free listings. Google Places offer an incredibly easy way to get noticed by those in your own vicinity and helps give small businesses a competitive edge against big businesses for landing nearby customers.

Bing also offers a similar service called Bing Places for Business and you should register with both. Google and Bing Places are valuable for most businesses, not just those with a walk-in storefront.

Start here for Google Places.

Start here for Bing Places.

If you would like support in setting these up, just contact us.


When is it time to update your website?

11/1/2016

Check these three items to see if now is the time.

Read More.
  • Can your website be viewed easily on your phone or tablet as well as on your computer? If not, you are missing out. More than half of traffic to major websites is now on mobile devices and growing.
  • Are you cross promoting your website with your social media? Does your website ask for a "like" for your Facebook Business page? If you have two or more stand alone digital strategies, it's time to integrate them. Posts and events to Facebook can feed your website. If you don't use social media, you are missing opportunities as many people use social media to search.
  • Does your site just look old and out-of-date? Design trends affect websites just like all other media. You wouldn't send out an advertisement that was designed in the '60s. Your website can look dated too.

Skip learning Photoshop and copy from your website directly to your PowerPoint

8/22/2017

You don't need to recreate content that is already on your website to make wonderful PowerPoint presentations for your customers. Skip making screenshots and doing special editing in Photoshop or some editor you would rather not take the time to learn. Do it in one easy step with PowerPoint.

Read More.

You can copy selected content from your website directly and easily to your PowerPoint. This could include just a photo, a logo, some nicely formatted text, or any combination.

It's so easy. Here is how to do it.

Open your browser and navigate to your website and to the page from which you want to copy content. Then open your Power Point and create a new slide. From that point, click Insert > Screenshot > Screen Clipping. Immediately, you will be switched to your web page. The content on the web page will be grayed out with a large "plus sign" type cursor visible. Move this cursor to frame just the content that you want to include in your PowerPoint and then release. Your selected content will appear as an image in your Power Point slide that you can now move, expand, or make smaller and to which you can add more elements to finish your slide.

Happy PowerPointing!


Quickly snip content for any use

9/26/2017

Suppose you want to email a friend about an author event. You could copy and paste the text, but it is so much faster, cleaner, and readable to just grab a snippet and have a nice, formatted message.

Sample of snipped content using the snipping tool Read More.

Windows offers "Snipping Tool". To find it, just start typing "snipping" in the search box of Windows until you see the "Snipping Tool Desktop App" pop up as the best match. Click that best match.

Next choose the website, the Word document, the email or anything else to snip from. Tab to the Snipping Tool and select "New". Your document will gray out and a plus sign cursor will allow you to select the rectangular area to snip. From there, you can copy the snippet and paste it into any document.

Add snipped content from your website to customer emails to better explain your message. Of course, don't overdo it. The snipped content is an image and too many images will send your email to the spam folder. If the image is integral to your message, you may have to remind your customer to allow images. However, no restrictions apply to any documents bound for the printer, except for your marketing skill and common sense.


Customer Call and No Internet - a Solution

10/27/2017

sad face emojiWe often need to display our website pages to customers using our laptops. Are we stuck if our internet connection fails or if there is no internet connection? Definitely not.

What is your backup plan?

Do you print some screen shots to keep in your briefcase? Screen shots by definition only show the part of the screen that is visible and we don't want to make several screen shots to capture the whole thing.

Using PDFs?

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PDFs are by design created to look like printed documents. In other words, they are designed so that you can send them to a printer. Before responsive web design, PDFs were a good, although not ideal, solution. The PDF would just look like a squished down version of the original web page and PDFs were easy to produce. You just choose "print" on your browser and select the "Save as PDF" option. However, today, almost all websites are designed as "responsive" which means that they "respond" to the size of the device screen, whether that screen is a smart phone or a gigantic desktop computer screen. Now when you create the PDF, the PDF will be created not as what you see on your big screen, but as what you would see if you were using a smaller screen, like your cell phone. This is often not the version that you want to show to your customer.

Best Option

There is an easy third option that is often overlooked. In Chrome, Firefox, or Opera, right click on your computer screen, choose "Save As", and select the option "Webpage, Complete". When you do this, you not only save one file, but you additionally save a folder with the same name that stores all the images, the formatting, and anything else needed to exactly replicate that page exactly as it looked at the moment that you saved it.

The page you have saved is completely self-contained and can be later viewed and shown to your customer even without internet access. You will not be able to click the links, so be sure to save all pages you may need to show your customer. Also, don't forget to select the "Webpage, Complete" option to ensure the accessory images and formats are saved.

When saving your page, save it to a useful name, like " List of locations" or some name you can remember. If you are using Windows 10, you can quickly pull up this file by typing the name you saved into the Windows 10 search box. If the search presents you with both the HTML file and the accessory folder, be sure to click the HTML file and not the folder.


Ideas for better websites

How to text from your computer

6/6/2018

Some of our customers just respond better to texts than to emails. But sometimes typing that text on a computer would be just so much easier and here's how to do it.

Using your gmail, Outlook, or any other email system that you use, you can send a text if you know the telephone number of the recipient.

Read More.

How to get the text email address

To convert the phone number to an email address, you add the carrier code to the phone number. For example, if the 10-digit phone number is (555)123-4567 and the carrier is AT&T then the email is: 5551234567@txt.att.net

When the recipient replies to the text, the reply will go directly back to your email inbox. The email is always the 10 digit phone number with the carrier code behind the "@".

In most cases, you won't know the carrier. You can look up the carrier using websites like FreeCarrierLookup.com. In fact, FreeCarrierLookup.com will give you the complete email. Store this extra client email with your other contact emails and use as needed.

How this can help you

This is an alternative way to send the same text to a group of customers. Also, if you like to consolidate all your messages, text and email, in one place, this will be a help. You can view the texts that you sent in your sent folder just like your regular emails and you can later search for that text just as you search your archived emails.


Are your website users clicking the links?

4/29/2018

We track page views to know if our website is reaching our audience. It's good to know which pages are getting traffic. But do you wonder if people are clicking your links that don't take them to another page on your site? For example, are they clicking on links to external pages?

Usually,Google Analytics is the tool of choice for tracking page views. But you may be overlooking "event" tracking on Google Analytics.

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Events and how to set them up

When a user clicks on a link, this is considered by Google Analytics an event and can be tracked.

Suppose you are linking to your Facebook page. How many people are following that link? To find out, add the following to your link

"onClick = "ga('send','event','link to Facebook','Click');"

So, your link will look similar to

 <a href="www.facebooks.com/myFBpage" onClick="ga('send','event','link to Facebook','Click');">Find me on Facebook</a>

Same page links

Many people jump to more content on the same page with a link. Since this does not take the user to a different page and does not create a new page view, you may not know how often this link is clicked. Adding the "onClick" event tracker is very helpful.

View a report of these click events

To view these tracked events. open your Google Analytics Report and select the events option.

Of course, there are more details to consider and they can't all be covered here. How To Set Up Event Tracking With Google Analytics is an excellent reference.


Get a quick SEO score

3/26/2018

Here is a quick method to score your website on SEO. First install the Chrome Lighthouse extension and then navigate to your home page. Choose the SEO option and run. The Lighthouse extension will run your page through a series of audits and give you a score with 100 being the best possible score.

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Passing the basic audits doesn't mean your site will rank at the top of search engine results, but it will tell you if your site meets the basics for search engine optimization.

Content Best Practice

The Lighthouse audit will check your site for content best practices, such as whether your site has a title tag and whether your site has a description meta tag. The description meta tag is the most important meta tag for your site. It is often used by Google to write your site's description blurb on the search engine results. The "key words" meta tag is no longer used to influence your position on search listings, although it was important in the past.

Mobile Friendly

Lighthouse will check your site for being mobile friendly. For example, does your site use legible font sizes for mobile users.

You will just get the basics from this audit, but if you are not scoring 100%, ask your web developer to take a look.


Is your website accessible?

2/25/2018

The Americans with Disabilities Act aims to ensure that persons with disabilities have full access to public accommodations. Does your website also accommodate persons with disabilities? In particular, does your website accommodate users who are blind or have limited vision?

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Internet users with limited vision can make use of a screen reader. However, screen readers need help from site authors to be optimally useful. You can see how a screen reader works from this Youtube video.

There are several things to watch for when making your web pages accessible. For example, images should always have "alt" tags to give a text description of the image. For persons with some vision, the contrast between text and background should be sufficient to make reading the text possible. There are are a number of other ways to ensure persons with limited vision can benefit from your website.

It can be difficult to know if you site is reaching accessibility standards. However, the Chrome Lighthouse extension is a very useful tool that you can search for and install. With the Lighthouse extension installed, navigate to the page you wish to check for accessibility and click the Lighthouse icon. Choose the "accessibility" option, and then hit "Generate Report."

Lighthouse will give you a score from 0 to 100% on the accessibility of that web page. But not only that, Lighthouse will show you the audits it has performed, including the ones you passed and the ones you failed. For example, the "image" audit will tell you which images are lacking an "alt" tag. We all want to aim for a 100% score on all accessibility audits.

Lighthouse will also score your webpage for SEO, performance, and other metrics. For some of these, reaching 100% can be difficult. But on accessibility, 100% is easily reached and maintained if we just make the effort.

If your score is less than 100%, ask your developer to check your site.


Should you advertise on Facebook?

1/11/2018

Social media are a major force in the world that can provide us with much advertising benefit. And Facebook is the king of social media. Not only that, but Facebook ads are impressively cheap. Yes, many of us, including your customers, spend an absurd amount of time on Facebook and this is a marketing opportunity for you.

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Boost Post Option

Facebook makes it very easy to advertise. If you have created a Facebook business page, then you can take steps to advertise. The easiest, but not the best option, is to click "Boost Post" on any post that you have created. This will cause your post to reach a much wider audience for as little as $1. When you set up your "boost", Facebook will give you an estimate of how many people your post will reach. You won't want to spend just $1, but $1 might be good for a test on how it works.

You will want to use a post that links back to your own website, so that you can benefit from people reaching your site. If you are sharing a post, there will be no benefit to you.

Real Facebook Ads

The better way to advertise is to create a "Facebook ad" by clicking the "Promote" button on the bottom left of your Facebook business page. Facebook will then present you with a number of options that allow you to choose your objective, your budget, your audience, and what your ad will look like by adding images or video, text, and other options. For example, you can choose to promote your Facebook page, that is, you can get more "likes" for your Facebook page. You can also choose to "Get More Website Visitors" and link to your website. This is your stronger option and your better strategy. Getting more Facebook "likes" is great, but we really want conversions. Use the text field to advertise a special, give a discount, or give some other reason to link to your website with the "Learn More" button.

Learn from great ads already on your news feed

Before creating your ad, be sure to take a look at the sponsored ads you already see on your Facebook home page. Look for the word "sponsored." For example, an ad for a Salesforce browser extension gives me a "Learn More" that prompts me to install the extension. Another ad shows me a video from The Grand Tour, Season 2 from Amazon Prime. Clicking shows me a page on the Amazon website where I can choose to add the season to my watch list or watch now. Real conversions are the goal.

You can find many more options by going to Ads Manager at: https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager/ However, it helps to start with the easier ad creation options.

However you set up your ad, Facebook's Insights will give you a full real-time picture of how your ad is doing.


What is the easiest way to manage an email contact list for your team?

12/5/2017

There are so many ways to send group emails now that we sometimes forget about the older, simpler ways to do it. Email sent using Mail Chimp, and similar services is a great way to contact customers and potential customers who have subscribed to your mailing list. And, of course, who needs email when we can communicate through social media like Facebook and Twitter? Yahoo Groups and Google Groups came before Facebook and Twitter and are still very effective.

Read More.

Are you using email client tools?

Despite all the new communication strategies, email is still the bedrock for communicating with your work team. Many people just CC or BCC each member of their team to send a group email.Other people will use the built-in group email capabilities of their email client. Your email client is the app that you use to view and compose email on your computer or other device. Perhaps you use the IPhone Mail app. Or maybe you use Outlook on your computer or other device.

These apps all provide useful ways to create contact groups for sending email. However, sharing these contact groups can be difficult and especially difficult when your team members use different email clients.

Creating your team list on the email server

Creating a group contact list is easiest when you can just create it on your email server. For example, create a contact list called TeamA@myCompany.com and another list for TeamB@myCompany.com. These are technically called ListServs.

If you are hosting with Today Data & Web, you can go into your email manager and create a group list simply by logging into your account, clicking on "email", and then clicking the "New Mailing List" link. Give your group email a name and then add your team members' emails. It is ready to go. Whenever you, as a member of the list, email to the mailing list. everyone on the mailing list will receive the email. When the recipient replies, the reply goes to all members of the list.


List of all short articles.