When I started the WRX, I knew that the company name choice posed some challenges. While it meant to represent the range of services I could provide, i.e. the works, the name was also the designation of a manufacturer's model with a pretty loyal following. I won't say the name or even industry for fear of sliding back, but most will know.
I knew I had challenges with the name and that it would likely negatively impact my search engine rankings. I dismissed that as I was marketing to the petroleum industry where I had existing business relationships and reputation. I also created a brand and identity that I really felt had legs and could eventually overcome whatever disadvantages of sharing a popular name. Therefore, I wasn't too concerned with my search engine rankings as organic leads weren't a priority. Put simply, I didn't foresee my business model changing.
I think we all learned hard lessons with COVID-19 in regard to how quickly business and the economy can change. Commercial fuel marketers were considered essential business, but with a big chunk of the population on lockdown, fuel demand plunged. To make matters worse, Russia and the Saudis were engaged in a price war that sent barrel prices dropping dramatically. While most of my client base had enough business to operate, hiring outside consultants was something of a luxury and I had to consider marketing to a broader market for my own business to survive.
Finding myself actually needing to engage potential clients both directly and organically, I took a hard look at my present strategies. I focused on the WRX Media brand and after refining the website content at wrxmedia.com, started looking at where I was landing on Google searches. And that was when I realized the problem I had.
Google had determined that the WRX must be associated with said manufacturer, so it regarded my company and website as just another car fanatic nobody and I was in Google search engine limbo. I thought okay, I have a baseline. So, I created new content, published blogs, refined meta data, and did everything I've always done to optimize for search engines. After a few weeks, still nothing. At least on Google anyway. Bing had me on the first page for most of my 'wrx' keyword combinations. Google? Crickets.
This isn't my first rodeo. I launched a new website for a client earlier in the year and it is doing phenomenally on Google on a range of keywords. And we still haven't rolled out the really powerful SEO tools yet. But on my own website, it was a far different story.
I knew a web development company with poor search engine rankings might suggest some incompetencies, so I started in on two different strategies to rectify the situation. One was to continue with my current track and try to make headway with Google using the tools they offered. The second strategy was to start fresh with a new company name, domain, and website. The second option was far from ideal and would involve changing my corporate name with the state, IRS, bank, etc., but may be the only reasonable course of action if I could not make progress with Google.
I went with the name Traversi Media and the domain traversimedia.com. Aside from a logo change and some palette tweaks, I used the WRX Media website and content verbatim and performed the same content updates that I was performing on wrxmedia.com. In doing so, I could prove which website was gaining traction in the rankings.
Traversi Media had a few challenges of its own. My brother is a successful businessman and entrepreuner and pops up in many searches. His sons are accomplished rock climbers, one world ranked. Traversi is a common Italian name and there are many people that pop up both in Italy and the U.S. Further, there is one young man, my namesake, that is a gifted programmer so I'm somewhat competing with him.
On the WRX side, I registered on Google for their Search Console application. Honestly I think this was the single greatest factor in alerting Google that WRX Media could be more than just what its algorithm had determined. Nonetheless, I continued to hammer away on content and keyword refinement while publishing new material.
After a month, things started changing for the WRX, but rankings for Traversi Media were drastic enough that I'm still considering the hassle of a name change to leverage the better results.
Granted these are softball searches given each incorporate the company name. but as you might imagine, the web design/development space is massive and competitive so the chances of either ranking well under a generic 'web design' search is pretty slim. Nonetheless, you can gauge how either site is doing given the above overall. Especially worth considering is the wrxmedia.com domain is four years old with an active site the entire time and traversimedia.com was purchased exactly one month before the time of this post.
Because I have made headway with Google for WRX - I didn't even appear in these searches a couple months ago - I can continue doing what I've been doing and hope that rankings continue to improve. I intend to evaluate the company name and marketing effort in the months to come and may decide to move forward with the name change then. However, I think the real takeaway is that search engine rankings are still pliable enough where real change can be achieved using both the tried and true SEO methods along with the tools offered by search engines.
UPDATE: Just two days after posting this, the search engine results changed drastically for both. For all of the above searches (wrx and traversi), wrxmedia.com rose up the list to the second or third page of reults. The traversimedia.com domain on the other hand dropped considerably. This makes sense given wrxmedia.com has been active for years and given the two sites are near identical, Google treats WRX as the more relevant website. It will be interesting to see how the rankings change in the coming weeks.
Most businesses have been greatly affected by the global pandemic, from reduced supply and demand to outright shutdowns. We are slowly starting to emerge from that, but for most, the business landscape has changed a great deal. It may be years until it feels "normal" and some question whether it ever will.
Fulfillment businesses - retail, wholesale, manufacturing, shipping, etc. - can benefit a great deal by technology, but still require people onsite. In office environments, much more can migrate to a virtual enviroment. While Zoom has gotten a great deal of press and has become a juggernaut in this new world of social distancing, that is just one tool that can be leveraged to aid businesses trying to conduct operations with remote team members. Beyond virtual meetings, utilization of remote desktop across secure VPN (virtual private network) provides a big step towards that "next best thing to being there". That same VPN can be utilized to provide VOIP (voice over IP) service to customer support and sales people working from home.
So, for office environments, the big pieces are available and pretty well vetted out. But there's aspects that are a little scary and certainly fall into new territory for many.
Most IT staff were presented with a whole slew of challenges having to support users flung far and wide rather than all within an office. Probably too, there are those cultures that never really embraced the remote worker concept and managers are concerned that productivity may fall and accountability could suffer. It's certainly worth mentioning the myriad of manual processes that don't require a ton of time or specialization that nonetheless do require onsite presence to process. It's the "little" things that tend to get in the way of a total remote business environment since most off the shelf applications don't address those and probably never will.
Almost 15 years ago, I did some contract development work for a growing petroleum company. Hired initially to redo their customer portal, they subsequently made me a full time offer I couldn't refuse and I began building an Intranet that effectively pulled everything from their disparate systems into one central place. Loosely termed an Intranet, it was that and more. Through that web interface, customer service and IT could work help desk tickets - a system I also developed - from anywhere they had an Internet connection and a browser. Sales people could access full customer information and pricing from the main ERP without needing a VPN and a remote desktop session into the enterprise system.
I developed an invoice payment system that used ACH payments processing that was both inexpensive and free from the hassles of PCI compliance. As we knocked the big custom items off the wishlist, there were all the little ones. For example, the supply department pricing was a daily process generated by one person and while not that time or effort intensive, it required a couple steps to verify a cost file had been received and that margins had been set for the day. It maybe took ten minutes to do, but required multiple steps and had to take into account missing files, time of day, and dependent processes. I incorporated a new process into the supply department's section of the Intranet that provided both a full view into the process and status, as well as the ability to process the pricing with one click.
There were a lot of processes that benefitted from not only a streamlined process, but transparency to all those involved with it. Team members could actively help each other out such as handling tickets or processing payments, but would have the tools to see what had been done and by whom. Managers could see every single action taken on a help desk ticket. All of this functionality grew from discussions with stakeholders and developing the features once I understood the process and challenges.
While I left that company last year to start my own, many of the systems I designed remained and when the Coronavirus hit, they transitioned many employees to remote. We could never have imagined the world as it is now, but the work we did over the years to make processes more efficient became vital in enabling team members to work as effectively from home as they did in the office.
As devastating as the pandemic has been to the economy and business, it demands that we all look at how we operate and areas where we might increase efficiency. While this reality is scary for most, it nonetheless forces us to think outside the box and reflect on how nimble our operations are in adapting to change. And while we all lack a crystal ball, we can address the current pain points and while developing solutions for those, consider building in hedges against whatever chaos the world decides to throw at us.
The Coronavirus has turned the world upside down and has been disastrous for companies, their employees, and everyone that does business with or benefits from their organization.
While business is slowly opening up and people are starting to work again, we are far from back to normal. There's speculation that we will be living with some degree of restrictions well into 2021 or even longer.
To help companies that are ramping up and adjusting to operating in this new reality, the WRX is cutting its hourly rate in half for as long as the world is affected by COVID-19. Effective immediately, our billable rate is reduced from $150 to $75 per hour.
Like most other businesses we have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus and we are eager to return to work and hope this rate adjustment will help clients in their return to work and normalcy.
Wordpress started out as a blog platform and now identifies itself as a content management system thanks to its extensibility through plugins. As the core system is open source, it has become the go-to for those companies and individuals looking for the greatest flexibility in developing a cost-effective site. Most hosting providers offer Wordpress as part of a software suite making it that much more approachable.
Over the years I have deployed my own Wordpress sites or maintained/upgraded sites for clients. I no longer use it for any of my own sites as my own CMS platform has matured enough to make it far more flexible than Wordpress. However, I don't mind working on the platform for clients that prefer it.
I will say that I kind of have - if not a love/hate - a like/dislike relationship with Wordpress. There were times in the past where rolling out a quick and dirty website on a cPanel hosted site was easy as installing Wordpress and choosing a theme. You can get a decent looking bare-bones site without a whole lot of work. Out of the gate Wordpress is search engine friendly, which is yet another feather in its cap.
These days I prefer to create a quickie bootstrap responsive design and apply my own CMS to it. It's a little more work (by only a couple hours) than Wordpress, but a much more polished product and even delivers a bit better SEO. But for the business owner that doesn't want to spend the money on a developer, the Wordpress option is the ticket, more so if they spend extra time on content creation and tweaking the website for best results.
That said, there are some caveats that one should consider before going the Wordpress route.
I can look at any of my site logs and see a bunch of 'Page Not Found' errors for addresses such as '../wp-admin..' and similar. These are attempts by would-be hackers to determine if the site is running Wordpress. If they get a hit, then they come back and probe for vulnerabilities. Wordpress is a very popular platform so hackers are constantly trying to find vulnerabilities in either the platform or its many plugins. They are often successful in this pursuit, so it is imperative that Wordpress is kept up to date. The same goes for any plugins.
Wordpress is database-driven and thus, all site settings, design spectifics, and content itself resides on the database. This is not a bad thing, but over the years the active content data location has become much more obscure. Most of the time this doesn't matter. However, you can run into problems if the site is maintained by multiple people and there are gaps in communication.
For example, I was contacted by a new client that had a Wordpress site that was hosted by one company and maintained by another. Suddenly, their hosting was canceled and all they had was a backup of the site and some old login information. Because we lacked the Wordpress credentials and usernames/passwords were encrypted, I had to deploy the site manually and edit the old content directly through the database. Because Wordpress kept old entries, the content records numbered in the hundreds and determining the production records was difficult. This is a unique example, but it illustrates that once you go down the Wordpress path, you are locked into it until you develop a new site. Further it is vital that your content team documents Wordpress credentials, settings, and content history.
The last thing to consider are the plugins. If you want to extend the functionality of the platform, the plugins can often achieve your needs. As mentioned though, they represent a potential vulnerability so always make sure you keep them up to date and uninstall if they are ever discontinued or support is dropped. In addition, plugins are not always well-documented or user-friendly - so expect a learning curve with all of them. Finally, there's the possiblity the plugins might conflict with others.
Taking all of this into account, there's no surprise that a cottage industry has grown to address the potential growing complexities of building and maintaining Wordpress sites. There are some development companies that specialize in this niche, which I find more than a little ironic since Wordpress was developed to make website management easier. I feel if your Wordpress project is going to be that complex, you are better off spending the money on website developers (say like the WRX) that will build a website and CMS specific to your needs.
Regardless which way you go, Wordpress or otherwise, preparation and planning go a long way towards a successful website project. The WRX can help in that respect, from advising and planning to development and training. Please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for help in that area.
The WRX just launched the new website for Barker Petroleum at https://www.barkerpetroleum.com The company was founded in 2019 and is a fuel hauler operating in California and northern Nevada.
We not only designed and developed the website, but had a hand in the company's logo design as well. We worked with the owner in developing the color palette and multiple iterations of the logo through the company formation. In addition to corporate and marketing information, the site features a pre-employment inquiry form, as well as a news section that will be launched in the weeks ahead.
While I always try to present the various services the WRX offers, website development is one of our core services. Please keep us in mind for any projects you might have.
I've just launched a new website - CardlockFuel.com - that will provide information and news for the industry along with a cardlock site locator. Fuel marketers will be able to add and administer their own fueling locations to ensure the site has the most accurate data.
Developed to showcase and promote the capabilities of the WRX, the site is free for fuel companies and visitors alike. Eventually when traffic numbers justify it, advertising opportunities will be offered on the site.
Fuel marketers are encouraged to register at the site so that they can begin adding sites. I can also accept files to import sites - instructions will be available once registration has been completed.
Ever since I started the WRX, I had an idea for an import/export system that would bring in transaction, card, and account data, and export it to accounting and/or ERP systems. Most of these systems have some system to perform the imports, but there can be limitations such as data transformation, process frequency, and automation configurability. In my mind, I could build a system that was many things to many companies but essentially boiled down to a custom middleware solution: FuelWRX.
A few months ago, I was working through a process with another vendor for performing settlements of transactions by taking in site controller data and comparing against settled transactions. Surprisingly, there can be a significant gap in a meaningful way to automatically reconcile transactions resulting in a lot of manual processes to compensate. These manual processes grow out of the technology and process gaps and over time, it becomes an accepted practice - the cost of doing business.
More recently, I was discussing with another company their need to increase the frequency of imported transactions to a fleet management software they work with. Their accounting system can accommodate the import of daily transaction files and export to other systems like a telematic provider, but is limited to a daily process. However, by developing a system that acts as the translator between the fleet card provider's API and the telematics provider, we could provide near real-time data.
Both of these examples fall right into the scope I imagined for FuelWRX. Each scenario carries different challenges, goals, and data, but at their core require a process that brings in data, transforms the data, then exports the data. While this requires custom development to build the process - and is typically the barrier for many to move forward to address - the FuelWRX business model removes the high costs associated with custom anything.
Since the system will essentially boil down to transaction-based processing, a simple low transaction fee will be charged with just a month-to-month committment after a 90 day period. Some processes may incur one-time minimal setup or configuration fees which will be communicated upfront. I envision these as being costs outside of my own control. All custom software development will be absorbed by the WRX. I'm betting that whatever FuelWRX handles for its customers will be so beneficial that they will use it for years to come and I will make up my investment in the long run.
I'm revealing just the first layer of this service to everyone and encourage any companies out there to get in touch with me to discuss current needs or ideas. There's a whole reporting side of the service I have yet to share, as well as functionality to aid in fraud detection and revealing sales metrics. That being said, this service would only be as good as those it serves, so I welcome any feedback even at this early juncture.
The SANS Institute recently reported the following:
"The past several months have seen a wave of ransomware attacks hit local government organizations in states across the US. Most recently, 22 municipalities in Texas were hit with ransomware in an attack believed to be launched by “a single threat actor,” according to Texas state officials. Lubbock County managed to detect and deal with the infection right away. Other municipalities are working to recover from the attacks. When private companies are hit with ransomware attacks, they are often able to keep the incident quiet. People notice when a municipality’s online presence disappears."
Ransomware remains one of the most destructive and expensive attacks on an organization's infrastructure. Once compromised, a system's files are encrypted and rendered unusable unless the affected organization pays a ransom of tens of thousands of dollars. Regardless if the organization is able to restore their own data or it decides to pay the ransom, the period to restore their systems will often take days to weeks.
Avoiding a ransomware attack requires two important efforts: system/network hardening and user education. While an organization can ensure their systems are up to date and hardened against outside attacks and system compromise, most attacks start directed at users. The reason being is that the easiest way to get into a network is through an individual's PC. What better way to compromise that PC and ultimately their entire network than to entice an employee to willingly launch a malware application.
Having run an IT department for a large corporation, I knew our biggest challenge was not the hordes of attempted attacks on our firewalls and network in general, but our own team members that could invite those attackers in without even realizing it. Carefully crafted emails seeemingly coming from our own leadership would request immediate assistance to ensure a vital transaction is completed. Please open this document, click that link, and what person in their right mind would ignore a request from the CEO himself...
One click and that PC is compromised. Hopefully your antivirus detects and contains...or does it start working its way through your network and file servers become unreachable, mail servers cease responding. My intent is not to frighten, but it is frightening, no?
Your IT department is going to do everything to prevent the worst, but is at a disadvantage if threats come right through the front door. Thus, the first line of defense is your employees. The second line is your processes and establishing a system where any requests, from co-workers within one's department to the highest levels of management, are routed through known processes that no outside hackers will know about and thus, will be unable to compromise.
Educated employees will question a suspiscious email and not act unless they have vetted out through established internal processes. If there's no internal process, even a simple phone call to the CEO to verify an email's authenticity should be okay within a vigilant organization.
The WRX can develop and present training programs and materials for employees, as well as develop internal processes and systems to take the guesswork out of these phishing efforts.
2019 marks an exciting time for me and this company. I've enjoyed a fair amount of success over the last 11 years in the petroleum field. During that time, I developed integrated systems, card network platforms, as well as programmed applications that increased communication and collaboration.
I worked my way from contractor to IT Director. In the last few years I was at the forefront of a new fueling network, which provided a variety of challenges and roles that reminded me what motivated me the most. As my role within the company evolved, I realized I was ready for a new challenge.
What I enjoyed most about the last few years was the diversity of responsibilities. While I was building a sophisticated network and portal application, I was designing and programming, building servers, Windows applications, etc. It was the type of work I was doing regularly when I ran my own company.
I have owned a few companies over the last 25 years with a fair amount of success. I have been building websites since 1994 with an emphasis on database driven applications. I've also been involved with all aspects of IT from hardware and software to security.
As I considered going off on my own, I knew I would still be involved with the commercial fueling industry. I have a lot invested in time and energy in the industry and am still excited about the changes that are taking place. With industry experience and knowledge to draw from, the WRX has a lot to offer jobbers and commercial fuel marketers.
I encourage companies to reach out to inquire on ways to improve their business and processes.
In the last few years, I've attended a number of users conferences for different enterprise software programs. You can find out a lot about the applications and more importantly, the company behind it, by what types of sessions they offer. The ones that are more marketing and sales-oriented are likely to be all about increasing revenue whereas the ones focused on users and their challenges are clearly all about support.
While I saw both sides of that spectrum, in all cases I sought out the technology round tables. These round tables afford users the opportunity to discuss problems and wishlists with the individuals responsible for implementing product revisions. More importantly you can find out what challenges other customers are experiencing and how they are working through them.
What I found most interesting about all of these sessions were the variety of issues that would be pretty simple to rectify but remained on everyone's wish list.
In many of these cases, people would ask about a text file they needed to export to an accounting system or one they would need to import for reporting purposes. They could see the data within the application and instinctively knew it should be easy to get at, but year after year it remained a want. A lot of software companies are focused on the big items and keep shuffling off the little stuff to a later date.
To be fair, many of these things apply just to a subset of customers and applying resources to such a small segment isn't practical. However, if a customer can save time or benefit to any degree as a result of this additional functionality there is value.
We've done enough integrations between disparate systems that we can help in a number of areas. Either we can develop the process ourselves on your system or develop a spec and identify the process for implementing. Sometimes clarifying needs and resources is enough to start a conversation on the right foot. If we do the work, we can often do so in a few days.
If you would like more information on how we can help with the automation of processes, please contact us.
I've worked quite a bit with a company that has grown a great deal in the last few years. That growth has increased their public profile and made them a target for hackers.
Whereas their network is secured through firewalls, segmentation, antivirus, and stringent email filters (rejecting most attachments), they are still plagued with regular infections. The current strategy for prevention is a technical one and effectively shores up vulnerabilities as they happen. A recent virus came in the form of an attached html file and after cleaning up and isolating the infection, they changed their email security to block html files.
From a purely technical standpoint, their IT team is doing everything they can. Almost.
For as long as there has been hackers, there has been a human element to hacking. Whereas early hackers would use social engineering to learn about users and find ways to hack into their account, todays hackers rely on human behavior to deliver their payload. While antivirus programs can stop a majority of viruses, they can't stop people from, well, themselves.
The aforementioned company has been suffering mainly from ransomware and virus attacks that target its people. The hackers have figured out corporate org charts and key personnel so an email directed at the accounting group seemingly originating from the department director carries far more weight than some unknown random individual. Seeing an email from their boss, he/she opens up the attachment and the hacker owns them.
While the company does engage in user education it can be more proactive in those efforts as ultimately your people are your best antivirus. If you have ingrained in each and every individual a "am I expecting this?" and "confirm with sender verbally first then open" mentality, the incidences will reduce if not disappear altogether.
If you would like more information on how to work with your own team in reducing virus and hacker risk, please contact us.