Merchant Data Systems

#1 Credit Card Processing Company

Merchant Data Systems, which was founded in 1997 and has its headquarters in Miami Beach, is a payment gateway— that is, an eCommerce application service provider whose function is to authorize the payment made by an Internet or traditional “bricks and mortar” business, just like the point of sale in a physical store. Merchant services include mobile credit card processing as well as brick and mortar business solutions: electronic check conversion, automated account settlement, electronic benefits transfer— all on the complex credit card machines described below. They also sell and lease credit card processing and other equipment and serve proprietary gift card and loyalty programs.

Every company, whether large or small, needs to have an efficient, streamlined method of getting those with whom they do business to accept credit cards from them. And that is where payment gateways make their valuableness manifest. The technology used by MDS is sophisticated and up- to- date enough for all credit card processing companies and includes only the best credit card machines. These range from small calculator- like devices that process the card and print the receipt, to various “virtual terminals” such as First Data Global Gateway (FDGG), which requires no software to install: It is ready to accept credit cards from anyone who has an online merchant account, once that person is logged in. All major credit card lines— Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Diners Club, and JCB— are accepted.

Mobile credit card processing is also a big part of the merchant services of MDS. With them, the client with a merchant account can literally transform his own iPhone (or other smartphone) into a mobile POS device. To do this, the client must first sign up with MDS Mobile, after which both his desktop computer and his smartphone become “virtual terminals” and he can enact business transactions while “on the go.” The system is so flexible that no adjustments are needed should the owner of the credit card merchant account get a new machine or phone. What is more, usage of the software is cheap, costing only a few pennies for every transaction. And MDS Mobile is as secure as one can get: None of his personal data that could be used to commit identity theft is stored on the user’s machine.

Here, in greater depth, is a description of how MDS Mobile can be used on a smartphone. The seller logs in using his secure credentials, then attaches the MDS Mobile device— which is shaped like a half moon and has a slit which the card can go through— to the top of the phone and punches in the sales total on the keypad, presses “Next” and the swipe button, and slides the card through. All of the online merchant account owner’s information then appears on the screen in truncated form, and the seller hits “Next” and types in his own notes, which will be available to him alone. He also clicks on the “Send Receipt” button, so that the customer will get the receipt in his email account. When he hits “Submit,” then authorization of the credit card merchant account takes place within seconds, and the seller knows whether it is valid or not.

Great and convenient as it is, what was just described is not even half of what MDS has to offer. Those who have merchant accounts with them can also have their cards processed over wireless network— and this feature is especially useful for those who work from places that have not traditionally been used as bases from which to do business— fairs, job sites, and the like. Those who continue to work from the conventional places can take advantage of the digital or analog technology that credit card processing companies have been using for a long time.

MDS is very flexible indeed; its architecture is capable of supporting several POS options. Best of all, MDS’s POS hardware is covered by warranty.

Not surprisingly, MDS— particularly its Cash Advance program, which offers advances on credit card receivables that enable the beneficiaries to purchase new equipment— is used by all of the leading restaurants in the nation. Likewise, many gas companies, mail and telephone order companies, and merchants whose businesses make them rank as “high risk,” are also turning to MDS for solutions.

MDS has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and on a scale of A+ to F, it has been given an A. Just the past year, too, MDS announced that they were joining up with Karma Snack, an online marketing company, in the hopes of being able to increase the sales made by their clients.

To sign up with MDS and start accepting credit cards, one puts in his personal name, email address, and phone number, and optionally, he may also include the name of his business, what they sell, and types of transactions (this category includes retail [swiped], online/ e- commerce, pay at the table, electronic check service, gift card program, and nonprofit). Applications are in the vast majority of cases approved immediately.

Like any online enterprise, MDS has its customer support team that is working 24/ 7 to answer their clients’ questions and help them solve any problems they might have. A happy customer is a long- term customer. As the people at MDS say: Let us have a successful and profitable relationship.

For the last 3 years, Karma Snack, too, has been a growing player as a marketing services company. A large part of the services involves SEO (search engine optimization), a system of using keywords in such a way as to increase a website’ ranking on a list of search results, and both Internet and mobile SEO are provided. Karma Snack will surely be a fine complement for Merchant Data Systems in their new partnership.

It’s estimated by 2014, mobile traffic will overtake desktop, and getting traction for that now, is more critical. Still there are some businesses that don’t know how or where to get started. Can their current developer handle the conversion? Is it really necessary? Where do they get answers?

Karma Snack Regular Website

Karma Snack Regular Website

I was in the exact same boated a couple months back, until I learned the huge leaps and gains that mobile traffic was getting. Visiting my Karma Snack site on an iphone didn’t have the native feel, and look which I deem critical to the overall brand. We tried utilizing JQuery mobile and even JQTouch, but even though they great for applications (We are developing a quick lead management app utilizing JQTouch), wasn’t the right fit for the Karma Snack experience.

To give you a little background on how difficult the journey actually is for average business owners here is a background on me, a web developer. I’ve been computer programming in C++ and Perl since 1995, and designing websites back when Altavista and Lycos were running the show. I remember when CSS was still brand new, and Google wasn’t even a thought. Creating websites is in my blood, it is what I live for day in and day out. So for me to tell you that I had a difficult time with this task should give a small insight on how difficult it can be for newer website developers to handle. I knew businesses hand to take mobile seriously, so I took a hiatus and learned everything I could about the potential, frameworks, tested out script after script, and setup after setup.

A lot of back and forth with developers, programmers, and designers went into building the Karma Snack Mobile Architect. But just gaining the knowledge needed to answer questions for the perfect user experience standpoint was worth the headaches. After all this time, I can proudly say we’ve got the answers. We’ve already begun the conversion process for our bigger clients, and have stripped down a framework to barebones and usability for designers to have their fun too.

In the past 2 months, we’ve converted several clients’ website to mobile/tablet versions. In fact we made it mandatory for ALL new website development to be mobile friendly or enabled, there is no if-and-or-buts about it. If you get a website from Karma Snack, it’s mobile ready, no matter what.

Mobile Friendly Versus Mobile Enabled

What’s the difference in Karma Snack’s terms of Mobile Friendly or Mobile enabled?

Karma Snack Mobile Website

Karma Snack Mobile Website

A mobile friendly website means each page of the site will self adjust their layout according the device detected. There are several scenarios were this would be the best option versus a new mobile website itself. A website which is mobile enabled, is a website which detects mobile devices, and automatically redirected them to a mobile version of their website. We finally launched our Mobile version at http://m.karmasnack.com. I’m proud of the smooth back and forth between the mobile version and the regular version of the website, which we figured out how to do with cookies, and slight javascript tweaks.

Mobile Website To Regular Website Transition

What I’ve learned so far for Karma Snacks’ user feedback, people love the smooth transition of the website, if a particular page is not mobile enabled, it goes to the non-mobile version without interference, and then it automatically detects, when they go to a page which is mobile enabled, and switches back. This style allows a website to slow or gradually change pages to mobile friendly, over a period of time, because transitioning 10,000+ pages which are not on a CMS would be a hell of a challenge for a project.

I suggest moving the top level pages and 2nd level pages first. Make sure the call to actions exist on the mobile site in a mobile version. I’ve seen too many times where people half-ass their mobile site, and have the call to action, the most important part of your website, in an ugly non-mobile friendly way. Get your designer involved from the beginning of the transition and challenge them. They’ve got about 320 width of pixels to play with, good luck, it will be a true challenge. The goal is to keep the look and feel of the website the same when going from Mobile to Regular. If a user visits your website on their mobile first, and then goes to their desktop for a more vivid experience, They should understand automatically that this is the exact same website. The feel, the navigation, the content, it’s all there. The ultimate goal is for them to not even have to visit your regular site, since all of the functionality needed is on your mobile version, and they can order, fill out form, or quickly get in contact with your business.

The Mobile User Experience

User experience is key for everything, it took us nearly 6 months of trial and error until we got the perfect framework, and created a customized Karma Snack Mobile Architect and launched our mobile site. We had to do research, test speed, and compatibility. The user should be able to scroll, search, and understand intuitively how to use your mobile site. Quick symbols for navigation work where there is not a lot of room for text. Depending on the design, I recommend have a navigation at the top and bottom of the pages, and maybe a subtle mini-navigation when in a particular section. Sitemaps will also help visitors and search engines. I like to keep the sitemap easy and tiered up by specific sections of the website.

Google Map Localization

Google Map Localization

A big thing to take into consideration is location, and quick contact. Usually when someone doesn’t have a direct contact of a business, they Google it on their mobile phone. They either get the phone number directly from Google or go to the website. Make sure your phone number and contact information is visible and intuitive to find. At Karma Snack, our clients come and meet us at our location, like several other businesses. We placed a “red directions” pin for a map location in our navigation. So when a visitor clicks on the Red Pin, it launches Google Maps for them with our coordinates in place, they can take it from there. We attempted to make it very easy for visitors to contact and find us.

Website Speed

Remember speed is very important, most people will be using your mobile site on their cell phone data plans, so I made it a top priority to that each page is under 300K in size and still stylish. All scripts are Asynchronous, and we made sure database calls are done only when absolutely necessary.

Utilizing WebSiteOptimization.com’s Web Page Speed (http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/), I was able to achieve only 18 http request for the home page, and under 262K size in download speed. I love speed, because it creates a better user experience.

Quick Comparison of speed:
Mobile Karma Snack - 18 http requests at 262K download size
Regular Karma Snack - 28 http requests at 471K download size

Mobile Accessibility

I’ll admit, I’m from the old school, and I go W3C validating crazy. It helps with accessibility for disable person (blind, deaf, etc), and it also helps in making sure your website looks exactly the same on every browser and operating system.

Utilizing HTML5, and our new Architect, and Also using Google PageSpeed test I have the following results for Performance:

Mobile Karma Snack – 92 / 100 score
Regular Karma Snack – 95 / 100 score

These Google+, and Facebook plugins are really killing my 100 out of 100 score, which kinda of irritates me, but I digress.

Search Engines and Search Localization

Another key thing to getting mobile traffic, is getting on mobile search engines. Wait what? Yeah, if you notice Google gives different rankings for mobile and desktop. Google also localizes rankings. There were times I would notice certain web pages were not ranking for the mobile version of the exact terms. I had to do some serious digging, and it turns out there are special sitemap annotations for mobile now.

Regular sitemap Annotations:

<url>
<loc>http://www.karmasnack.com/build-a-mobile-website/</loc>
</url>

Mobile Sitemap Annotations:

<url>
<loc>http://m.karmasnack.com/build-a-mobile-website/</loc>
<mobile:mobile/>
</url>

Check out Schema.org or Google (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34648) for more information.

Microdata – Rich Text Snippets

Microdata (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176035) or Schema.org

Microdata - Rich Media

Microdata - Rich Media


This would be the perfect time to implement your Microdata annotations as well. I found out that you can take it to the max by utilizing Rich Media Snippets to add photos, and your Google + profiles to their search results. Google even has a Rich Snippets Testing Tool (http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets) to help web developers out. You can even add star rating with proper verification and annotations. I’ll discuss this in another topic, but jumping on board of this through Schema.org is going to be crucial for the survival of online businesses in the coming weeks.

Implementation

Matt Cutts Google Panda

Matt Cutts Google Panda

People, I need you to understand this, I said in the next coming WEEKS. These are not decisions where you can delay 1 or 2 months because the board of directors has to approve of this and that. If you want to survive Google’s updates you need to implement every single part of the online marketing methodology we give to clients at Karma Snack. Why? Have you heard of Google Panda? Yes, of course you have, well a little kept secret at Karma Snack we kept from the industry is that none of our clients were de-ranked, de-index, or lost rankings when the updates occurred. In fact a majority of them moved up in rankings. It’s pretty simply, you need to have a solid foundation for your online marketing. If you go with Karma Snack or any other company, make sure they give you a solid foundation. Businesses can’t afford to have their rankings lost because their web developer doesn’t know this and that about mobile. It’s important. It helps rankings, and is a critical component for the user’s experience.

Also, there are some Google updates coming up that are going to effect a lot of websites, you should check out: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html

It’s Not About Just Backlinks Anymore

There is really no more waiting for online marketing. If you are still just thinking about creating backlinks and think that is what’s going to get you results you are completely in 2002 mode. I’ve put together a quick bullet-point guide on what you need to survive the coming Google updates and Internet.

1) Mobile Friendly or Enabled Website – By 2014, Mobile internet visitors will over take desktop computer traffic. You no longer need to be in front of a computer to search or find what you need.

2) Fresh Articles and Content – Search Engines, and especially Google take a strong consideration with website which have fresh content. Indexing your website within 10 minutes of publishing an article happens all the time. Get content, and keep creating quality relevant content. This means content people want to read.

3) Website Speed – Google takes Speed into consideration for rankings! They said they do, so make your choice – do you want a heavy slow website with flash (seriously – Flash???), or fast loading and a better user experience?

4) Usability – Did you know what 80% of disabled people are head of their household? Why are you not W3C validating your website?

5) Schema.org compatibility – whether it is sitemaps, or Microdata, get with the program if you want traffic from the search engines.

6) Solid Online Marketing Plan – Get engaged, don’t spam website through blog comments, get engaged on social websites, and web 2.0 platforms. Create content, buzz, discussions, and get rankings. 70% of your website traffic should be coming from non-search engine sources.

Social Media Traffic

Social Media Traffic

If a business has over 70% of their customers coming from one source, what happens if that source decides to drop them? That’s what most website owners are doing when they only concentrate on Google rankings, Google this, Google that. Screw Google, get traffic from multiple sources, social media, social networking, social bookmarking, forums, Linkedin, and more. It is very critical to go where you TARGET audiences is online.

If you are a website designer and looking for business, go to small business web forums, find out where business owners are and talk to them. If you sell dolls, go to forums for doll and toy enthusiasts and engage there. Just go and drive traffic back to your site!

7) Take your website and your mobile website seriously! If you create a mobile site make sure it is truly user friendly, and has options for feedback from people!

Good luck my friends, if you have any questions drop me a line or comment below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

How to Compete in any Niche With A New Site

On October 13, 2009, in Expert Advice, by Adelard

SEO-ninjaFiguring out whether a particular niche is prime for taking over is key for anyone trying to play the search engine optimization game. Some marketers are simply bottom-feeder, and go after all the niches no one else is targeting. Others attempt to shoot for the sky and become hyper-focused on nothing but this. What I attempt to do is a little of both.

First you have become strong, search engine ranking wise and as well as TrustRank. The stronger your ranking power and trust are, the easier it is for you to get rankings. So in the phase we will bottom-feed. There are so many factors in search engine rankings I am going to skip most of then and go for the 1, 2, punch knockout: freshness factor (content) and link factor (backlinks).

Let’s look at getting rankings for New York Event Planning for my example. Here are the top 10 competing website for New York Event Planning and New York Party Planning along with their backlinks in parentheses (as of today, Oct 13, 2009):

Backlinks for top 10 (New York event planning):

#1 www.emrgmedia.com (2,909)
#2 www.gatheringguide.com (133,728)
#3 www.bizbash.com (44,202)
#4 www.eventique.com (1,147)
#5 www.davidtutera.com (3,215)
#6 www.yelp.com (12,208,011)
#7 newyork.citysearch.com (186,451)
#8 www.eventective.com (70,081)
#9 www.newyork411.com (1,272,799)
#10 www.nyc.com (40,730)

Backlinks for top 10 (New York Party Planning):

#1 www.davidtutera.com (3,215)
#2 www.gatheringguide.com (133,728)
#3 www.emrgmedia.com (2,909)
#4 & #5 www.partypop.com (375,140)
#6 & #7 www.alltimefavorites.com (4,224) (Ridiculous design)
#8 & #9 www.mypartyplanner.com (35,317)
#10 & #11 www.newyork.citysearch.com (186,451)

What I see is the #1 spots are going to websites that are more targeted for the keywords but have generally less backlinks that the other top 10, meaning the total search results is somewhat fragile.

A person with an aggressive marketing campaign is going to be able to skyrocket through these. A key indicator is the freshness factor, most of top sites all have fresh content on the their website, which is allowing them to outrank everyone else, but they are not totally focused on “New York Party Planning” as the top #1 positions for both keywords.

In this case I would recommend posting 4 to 5 articles weekly for about 2 months straight. Do keyword research and talk about topics that involve your business and keywords. It is very very very important that you post 4 to 5 ORIGINAL articles a week consistently, that either you wrote or hired a copywriter to write. Don’t copy and paste, please. WordPress is going to be your friend in this situation. Your freshness factor will become very strong, and we give you a significantly large advantage.

    2 Key Steps to increasing your freshness factor fast:

    1. A key to posting your articles is to have a Google sitemap.xml file, make sure it is submitted to Google and the other search engines, and it is visible in your robots.txt file (So search engines you don’t know can find it as well). I use WordPress, which has an XML-Sitemap plug-in that automatically re-created the sitemap after a new article, AND submits it to the major search engines.

    2. Make sure that once you post an article, you automatically ping as many ping services as possible. Again, WordPress has an updating/pinging service included, in which I include a huge list of ping services (Click Here to get my list of ping sites).

The down side to this is the link age; the new links you will be getting from the marketing campaign are all going to be relatively new. Google and the other major search engines take age of links into account as well.

This is where social media comes in. Having a viral marketing campaign along side is critical. Using several other social media websites pushing links, distributing your content, and generally talking about your company, it allows you to also be seen by search engines as a viral website, this is you creating your own “buzz”. Since the amount of backlinks we are gather are on several different major social sites, this combats the link age down factor that a new link faces such as in this case, with authority factor.

Exactly 4 days after you post each article, you will go to all your social media profile and send a backlink to each one, and a little snippet/intro to the article won’t hurt. During this process, post your article to the major article directories, and to avoid duplicate content penalty simply backlink to your original article in the resource box. The search engines will recognize this and will make sure your article on your main site is the one that shows up before others. It many take a couple of weeks or so of processing but in the end your original article will outrank your other ones, as long as you make sure to backlink to the original article.

Simple 1, 2 punch. This approach is targeted focused backlinks, and freshness factor. With this process the freshness factor is being ramped up significantly doing with constant articles.

There are several signs that are going to start arise to show the significant increase in ranking power, the most important one I measure is the Google Alerts. I setup Google alerts for my name, Adelard Gasana, and my website AdelardGasana.com, or KarmaSnack.com before doing anything.

When I post/schedule an article, the amount of time it takes Google to send me an alert tells me how high the trust factor is. If Google is sending me an alert, that means it has visited the website, has indexed the website, and is cached in Google’s database. So when I post an article on a Wednesday for example and it takes about 2 to 3 days until a Google alert shows up, that tells me that the freshness factor is growing.

As you know, there are some sites/pages that don’t get indexed for months. But the unique way of post lots of original articles and send rankings have allowed my clients and me to see sub-24 hours of getting index, cached, and traffic. My personal Blog AdelardGasana.com has got a freshness factor under 20 minutes. So as soon as I post an article there, within 10-20 minutes I am receiving an alert that Google indexes it. The freshness and trust factor is so high I am able to rank for almost anything I want by writing an article. KarmaSnack.com is at that level too, as well as all of our other clients.

There is no magic to doing this, just getting relevant backlinks, constantly posting articles, and knowing which ping websites to ping. Once you are receiving sub-24 hour Google indexing alerts, you can shift from bottom feeding to skyrocketing into the air. By this time, you will notice in your stats that most of your traffic is indeed targeted, and very focused. It’s prime for some good old newsletter list building, marketing, and promotion additional products/services or whatever you want to talk about.

Back in February when I launched adelardgasana.com, I was posting articles about 1 to 2 a day for about 2 weeks or so. Then I slowed it down to about 1 every other day. What this did was fill up the search engines with a lot of content, then I start limiting the content, this created a situation where search engines crawling my site constantly looking for new content, so when I publish something is gets almost instantly indexed.

This is why content is a very important part of the SEO process; backlinks are the next important step. Once you have a great combination of articles and content, and individual pages are getting sub 24 hour indexing you will be in a position to take over almost any targeted keywords.

That’s an overview of my trick to getting rankings. Of course I can’t divulge all the really big techniques I use to make sure I get extra boosts in the search engines, ridiculously increasing traffic techniques, and customized programs I can, maybe another day, stay tuned.

Let me know if you have any questions, this post was written of the top of my head, and not organized and outlined like I usually do.