Is your site secure?


I know this is the type of detailed techie info to which many of our clients are averse.  But it’s key.

The main things to know are that we’ve got your back, we can take care of this, and it’s not going to cost you a lot.  Good?

Extra good news…if you are one of our clients and your site is hosted by our partner, NeuronLinks, or our MPS server, the hard part is being done for you – FOR FREE!  Thank you, Raj and John, for including this extra as part of your clients’ web hosting package.

And super good news…only businesses with credible websites will be making these updates.  (If and when someone tells them about the issue.)  By implementing these changes toot-sweet, you could get some google bounce while non-HTTPS sites will be penalized.

We’ll be reaching out to our clients, if we have not done so already, or, please contact John at johnp@metapix.us or 408 252-8664.  Many of our clients have just asked us to “handle this” – we will certainly do so, and can quote for any time spent on site review and/or coding before we start if you wish.

Here’s the details (it will be easiest to understand if you use a desktop or laptop computer)…

(2018 update: The info below and the graphics are captured from the Chrome browser on a desktop on date blog was posted. All browsers have changed the way they display security info. Now, if you see an icon with a locked padlock, you can assume the web page is secure. If you see an icon displaying an exclamation point, an open padlock, a circled i, or the words, “not secure”, you do need to read further for the fix.)

Secure Web Site https

Here’s a view of a secure site. (And some pretty photos of great hair to break up the tech details.  You’re welcome.)

If you click to every page of the Halo site, you’ll see an icon of a locked padlock to the left of the domain name. It shows this is a secure site because it’s host is using SSL Certification* and it’s using the HTTPS secure website protocol.**

If your site shows a locked padlock icon on each page, you can stop reading – you’re good.

This is a big deal because soon Google will be flagging and penalizing any website that is not using SSL Certification for their websites—that is, if links don’t start with https://.

If each page of your site is not secure, browsers may show warnings that make it seem your site is not safe, especially when forms are displayed. And there will be a reduction in your website’s ranking in Google organic (non-paid-for) search results.

From here, two steps need be taken.  1) set up of SSL certification on your server and 2) review and coding of your site to set up HTTPS secure website protocol.


If your website is hosted by a company other than Neuronlinks or MPS, you’ll need to check whether your server is already supporting SSL. It’s easy to check, just type in “https://” followed by your domain name. You will immediately see the green lock if SSL has been set up (if you are on Chrome on a desktop/laptop.) If it has not you will see this message:

https not set up

You’ll need to review each page of your site – not just your home page.  Contact John if you’d like us to do this site review for you.

If you go to your website, in Chrome, and see this little iconnon-secure website icon it means that page is not secure and will be docked by Google soon. You’ll need to ask your web hosting company to switch your site to SSL. Good hosting companies should be offering this free of charge.

non-secure website notification


Once your site has SSL certification, the next step is to review your site for HTTP issues and make corrections.  And then add code to move to HTTPS.  Our charge for this work will vary depending upon how your site is coded, if you have separate blog, store, database, and/or mobile site, and how many pages on your site.

If you’d like help in updating your site, please contact John at johnp@metapix.us or call 408 252-8664.

*SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. More info at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certificate_authority.

**HTTPS secure website protocol – “S” for secure.  More info at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTPS.


Mail List Management FAQs

The answers below assume you are using Constant Contact or Vertical Response as your service provider. The only other provider we work with is MailChimp, but their list management is a struggle and contrary to the way our clients work, so we avoid them if possible.

If the same e-mail address is on several lists in my account, will that person receive the e-mail campaign more than once?

Short answer, no.

The service provider catches duplications and only sends the campaign to each address once. For example, say you have three lists in your account, Peninsula Clients, Marin Clients, and South Bay Clients. And Maggie Jones with address mj@gmail.com has visited your locations in San Jose and Palo Alto and so is on two lists. If you select all three of your lists to which to send an e-mail, the service provider will catch this and send only one to mj@gmail.com.

How to I get addresses to you to add to my account?

You’ll need to export them from your internal system or database and send to us, usually as an Excel or .csv file attached to an e-mail. All databases, whether MicroSoft Outlook, gmail contacts, your POS system, etc, have a feature to export. Occasionally John visits a client to train them on how to export, but usually a few minutes Googling “export + your database type” gives adequate direction.

We prefer to work with an Excel doc. But we have also received email lists as pdfs, hand-written addresses, and Word docs.

It is important to name the file to send to us uniquely and logically. For example, if the list is all clients, be sure to name it so – “acme-co-all-clients-022117.xls”, or if it’s just your VIP clients, “acme-co-vip-022117”. Including the date is also a good way to track the file in case we need to troubleshoot in the future.

Even more important, if you have more than one list in your account, be sure to communicate clearly to which list we are adding these new addresses.

How do I prevent an unsubscribed person from receiving mail from me?

That’s one of the great things about e-mail service providers. Once a person is marked as unsubscribed, there’s no way that account will send to that address. Even if that same address is added to the account manually or by uploading of a list, it will be blocked.

Can I log onto my account and edit lists myself?

Any time. We don’t own your account, you do. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction to handle your own list management if you like. For example, some of our clients save by manually updating unsubscribes who have reached out to them directly rather than unsubscribing themselves from a campaign.

I have a question regarding mail list management which is not answered here.

E-mail John!


If you use Instagram to promote your business you can take advantage of new business-only features by converting your account. We are recommending that all our clients who have an Instagram presence do this.

instagram accounts for business

When you switch, you will have the following new features and tools:

  • A “Contact” button is automatically added to your public Instagram page. You can choose to provide a phone number, email link, business address or any combination of these.
  • You can connect your Instagram account directly to your business Facebook page and invite your Facebook friends to follow you on Instagram right from your Instagram account.
  • You can learn more about your followers and see how your posts are performing with Instagram’s metrics tool, “Business Insights”.
  • You can create promotions and ads to help grow your business.
  • Instagram is promising more features in the near future.

Upgrading to a Business Profile takes some effort, and requires connecting to your business page on Facebook. Please contact John if you would like us to upgrade your account.


Holiday Marketing

A gentle reminder from Rachel that now is the time to start thinking of the holiday season.

And then for those of you who like a heavier hand, here’s your “I told you so.” Every year, around September, we remind our clients to start prepping and ordering gift bags, greeting cards, holiday decor, gift certificates, gift tags, posters, etc, and plan your online marketing: e-mail campaigns, seasonal web site changes, and AdWords campaigns. And then each year in November and December we get a slew of last-minute projects for which clients end up paying rush shipping and printing rates. (Reminder of our rush project policy.)

Are you sending cards, party invitations, and/or gifts to your clients and partners this year?  Let’s get on that too!

Selling gifts?  Check your inventory and the lead times of items you wish to stock.  From October on-wards, order fulfillment and shipping from your vendors may take additional time.  Also, be sure you stock plenty of festive packaging and shipping supplies if you plan on mailing items.

No stress, added costs, and drama this year — let’s get started on marketing’s silly season work now! We’ve plenty of ideas and sources for product.

Here’s some key dates to keep in mind…


Halloween, Monday, 31th


Daylight Savings, Sunday, 6th

Veterans’ Day, Friday, 11th

Thanksgiving, Thursday, 24th

Black Friday, 25th

Cyber Monday, 28th


Pearl Harbor Remembrance, Wednesday, 7th

Green Monday, 12th

Festivus, Friday, 23rd

Hanukkah, Saturday, 24th through Sunday, January 1st

Christmas Day, Sunday, 25th

Boxing Day | Kwanzza, Monday, 26th

New Year’s Eve, Saturday, 31st











Gibbon Because We Don't Have a Photo of a Chimp(Yes, we know this is a photo of a gibbon yawning, not a chimp delivering mail – it’s all we have in our library primate-wise as we have not taken a photo of a postal chimp, although we’d be excited to do so.)

We use MailChimp for a few clients and we find it to be the most difficult interface and address list management system of the e-mail campaign providers with which we have experience.

ONE – they don’t offer phone support.

TWO – Choosing the address list to whom the e-mail goes at step one instead of at the end of the development process causes problems and is contrary to the way our clients like to work.

THREE – They don’t have seed lists for testing.  This is a development issue for us, and does not effect our clients except for a bit of time added to the process, which adds to the cost to the project.

FOUR – The same address on several lists counts multiple times towards your monthly plan, so you can spend far more than is needed for your subscription.

FIVE – MC does not offer “pay-as-you-go” as an option – monthly subscription only.  You pay, even if you don’t send any e-mails.

SIX – Customization of address sign-up forms can only be done with a higher priced account.

SEVEN – Sign-up forms that can be coded to recognize list segmentation can be done only on pop-up pages, but not for embedded forms (which is pretty much the only way people do e-mail list sign-up forms now.)

EIGHT – The biggie – they don’t allow a campaign to be sent to more than one list.  The best-practice for managing lists in MailChimp is to have one list, which is divided into groups and segments.  Our clients find it confusing – actually we find it confusing at times, as well as cumbersome, non-intuitive, and time-wasting.


If you are interested, there’s more below on MC’s address list management.  But we don’t want to simply focus upon the negative and what we don’t recommend.  We do recommend using Vertical Response or Constant Contact as platforms.  The phone response for both companies is fantastic – customer support reps who know the product and are helpful.  And the list management is far simpler.  You can have as many lists as you want and get to select the ones you want each campaign to launch to.  Unsubscribes and bounces are well-managed at the account level, rather than the list level, which protects you from higher prices and grumpy customers and keeps you compliant with spam laws.

Our favorite is Vertical Response for the reasons above, as well as their pay-as-you-go option instead of subscription and because over the decade we’ve used them for a variety of clients, they have been consistently good.


So, back to MC’s list management issues caused by not allowing a campaign be sent to more than one list:

  • Unsubscribes are managed by individual list, rather than at the account level.  So if you have more than one list, and a recipient unsubscribes from one list, it’s not recorded in any other list, so you can e-mail to an address of someone who already unsubscribed.
  • Because there’s no connectivity between lists, if a client changes their settings in one list, it won’t be recognized by any other instances of that e-mail address in other lists.
  • If you wish to send an e-mail to separate lists, you need to duplicate the e-mail over and over, sending one e-mail launch per mail list.  If there are duplicated addresses in your account, you will be sending the same campaign to these addresses.  One of our clients is doing this, and are getting complaints from clients.


We know this is confusing.  Send us a line with questions, or call 408 252-8664.






Unless agreed otherwise, on a project by project or client by client basis, all copy provided to us should be publish-ready.  Publish-ready means that all grammar, spelling, phrasing is ready to “go to press”.  By sending us the copy, the client is saying, the copy is final and they are ready for it to be published to the world.

We do run spell-checks on all items we work upon which can call out errors in English common usage.  Depending upon the client and the situation we will either use the spell-checker correction or ask the client if an edit is approved.

Industry-specific words, non-English words, names, words with multiple spellings (Hanukkah vs Chanukah or Chanukkah or crostino vs crostini), and client-unique spellings (“house made” vs “housemade” or “skin care” vs “skincare”) are the responsibility of the client.

If we note something which does not appear to be correct, we alert the client.

We go through an approvals process so that a client can review a draft before the content is placed into final versions that may require more time-consuming editing.

Approval by the client means that they are satisfied with all aspects of the piece, including the spelling – of even common usage English words.

It is difficult, we know, to get to “publish-ready” copy.  We can help.  If the client feels they need to see copy in place, in an item, before making edits, we can produce that.  We can and do copy editing for many clients, for which we need guidelines provided by the client for industry-specific words, non-English words, names, words with multiple spellings, or client-unique spellings.

All work we do is approved by the client before we “go to press.”  If a word is mis-spelled, we feel badly, and sorry, but the final responsibility is with the client.


Partnership Marketing

First of all, credit where it’s due.  This fabulous corporate head shot was produced by Lisa DeNeffe Photography – a business we are lucky to work with from time to time.  The model is one of our long-time and favorite clients, Rosemary Camposano of Halo Blow Dry Bars and G3 Strategy.

Lisa and Halo have put together their services in such a great way.  Halo is offering a discount to Lisa’s clients on hair and/or makeup styling before their photo session.  And Lisa is offering Halo clients a discount on a corporate head shot package.

Both Halo and Lisa will send an e-mail campaign to their clients, so Halo will be introduced to potential new clients and vice-versa.  There will also be printed collateral for display and hand-outs and the web page version of the Halo e-mail campaign can be linked to from blogs and social media.  At the least, each business is generating new in-coming links from credible sites to their own web site for a nice search engine optimization boost.  A few such links are below – you’re welcome!

Partnership marketing is a win-win situation.  Your business’ clients win as they get an introduction to a new service or business and they get a nice deal.  Your business wins with exposure, added brand recognition, and SEO.

MPS wins too!  We have the opportunity to work with these great businesses and we developed the e-mail campaign Halo will send.  Here’s the landing page version: Professional hair and makeup + professional photographer = best headshot ever!

And my Facebook post for Halo that reached eighty Facebookers in the hour after being posted.

TIPS! Think about the types of services that would compliment your business and would be of benefit to your clients.  This is such an excellent sample – what could be better than hair and makeup right before a photoshoot?  Find a partner:

  • with an over-lapping target market to your business,
  • with a nice-sized e-mail list and/or blog following,
  • with the ability or contractor able to bring about a quality e-mail campaign and print collateral,
  • and with your level of energy and commitment to work to maximize all possible marketing pathways to make the partnership a success.

Be sure to check out:

Lisa DeNeffe Photography • Town & Country Village • Palo Alto • http://lisadeneffe.com/

Halo Blow Dry Bar • Burlingame, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Palo Alto • https://www.haloblowdrybar.com/

Thanks for reading – Rachel


E-mail Campaign Design

There are many ways to approach e-mail campaign development and production. We’ve narrowed it down to three options to cover all our clients’ budgets and all the devices out there.

We also include enhancements to our e-mail campaign services that our competitors skip. We usually do all the graphics and copy writing. For each campaign, we also produce a web page version which our clients use as landing pages for online ads or social media posts. A week after launch, we provide a free report on the campaign’s success.

And finally, because we don’t like to just do a one-off campaign with a short lifespan of value, we add the web page version to our client’s site on a news archive page so all that work put into making the e-mail campaign continues to pay off as a boost to site search engine optimization and additional information for site visitors to enjoy. Here are a couple of news archive pages we maintain using our e-mail campaigns: http://www.gleimjewelers.com/gleim_jewelry_news.shtml and http://www.palacecafe.net/about-us-newsletter-archive.html.

Reporting shows that around 55% of all our clients’ e-mail campaigns are being viewed on smartphones. This is a higher percentage for retail businesses and a lower percentage for B2B and service businesses. Because of this, the non-responsive e-mail campaign designs we were doing just a few years ago were dropped – a business’ e-mail must be readable and actionable on a smartphone.

Here’s what is working for our clients right now:

Mobile-friendly campaigns render cleanly, but not responsively, on all devices from smartphone (landscape and portrait) to desktop computer. Mobile-friendly is a term we made up to go with the code we developed. These are the lowest priced options since they do not need complex responsive code or an e-mail campaign platform’s design interface.

They work well on all devices and on a smartphone do not require pinching or side-scrolling.

Here’s a mobile friendly e-mail campaign.

Mobile Friendly E-mail Campaign

Responsive e-mail campaigns render the same code/design on any device. For these, we use a template provided by an e-mail campaign service provider, but prevent them from looking “from a box” with custom graphics.

Different e-mail campaign providers vary in quality and services. We like Vertical Response the best for its same-time-zone customer support and list management features, which we find to be the most adaptable to split-list campaigns and the way our clients wish to manage lists. However we have been recently surprised and pleased with how Constant Contact has improved – no more phone-tree nightmares when calling for support and great reporting. Of the main providers, MailChimp is our least favorite as the list management is non-flexible and there’s no phone support.

Here’s a sample of one of our responsive e-mail campaigns, produced through Constant Contact.

Responsive E-mail Design

Custom, responsive e-mail campaigns require a lot of work. Two versions of each campaign are produced: a desktop version and a smartphone version. These are the best looking and performing types of e-mails as the design is specific to the device.

Our company campaigns are coded in this way.

Custom Responsive E-mail Design

We work closely with our clients to make sure we are providing the best fit for their needs, and their budgets.

Our e-mail campaign portfolio.


Which Website?


Up until a few years ago, websites were static in that they displayed the same layout no matter the type of device upon which they were viewed. As you have all experienced, these sites do not work well on smartphones; the text is too small and screen pinching and side-scrolling is required.

Content Management Systems (CMS) sites allow for anyone with administration access to make basic edits. For example, putting in a new product photo or changing the business’ open hours. This always seems exciting to a business as they feel they will save money by managing the site internally, but all of our clients who have CMS sites pay us to work on them – work which costs more as edits are done in an interface, rather than using website coding software.

Mobile websites are coded completely differently from a business’ main site. It’s designed to render on smartphones in landscape or portrait modes and to feature information a mobile user is most likely to need. The main site continues to render on desktop and laptop computers and tablets. Mobile sites are “seen” as responsive by search engines.

A responsive website is designed to recognize the device the viewer is using and render the page’s content in the most attractive and readable manner by responding to the device’s screen size, platform, and orientation. This means the same website content will display at its best from desktop computer to laptop to tablet to smartphone.



We don’t push any particular type of site. We have experience and understanding of all types of website coding for businesses going back to 1999. As new technology is developed, we integrate it into our service offerings as soon as it is well–supported. (Many developers jump on selling new code too early, leading to websites that don’t function very well, have a short life, and cost too much.)

We clearly explain your options and by gaining an understanding of your needs, budget, and business goals, we can make a good recommendation. If we do code a responsive site for you, we use the well–supported codebase named Foundation, used by companies such as Yahoo! and National Geographic.



  • A user viewing a responsive site on a phone will see the exact same content as a user on a computer. Since phone users are generally visiting your site for different reasons than a user on a computer, you may wish to keep a separate mobile version of your site geared to smartphone users’ needs and behavior, instead of having a responsive site.
  • Responsive sites require more maintenance, testing, and security and Javascript upgrades since the technology and coding is newer and more complex. Whereas our non–responsive and mobile code can go months without needing attention.
  • Potentially slower page load time.
  • Generally a responsive web site is coded for smartphones first, so with computer users coming in second they may find the content over–simplified.
  • Coding and updating a responsive site is more expensive.



  • Users are now familiar with responsive websites and expect all businesses to have a site that functions well and looks attractive on all devices. Businesses with a responsive or mobile site are going to look current.
  • Search engines “grade” a site as being more worthy of higher organic search results if it is device-responsive.
  • Since the user will be viewing a site which performs perfectly on the device he is utilizing, they are more likely to move around your site, finding the information they are seeking.
  • We found the following info when we created a client’s website traffic report for October, 2015. It’s based upon visitors to one of their services pages, on a site without a mobile version. 67% of smartphone users — mostly iPhone and Android phones — bounced off the page without clicking a link to any other page versus a 43% bounce rate for visitors using a desktop computer, tablet, or laptop.
  • As of winter 2015, 30–35% of our clients’ website visitors are using a mobile device. Your numbers are probably similar. Since around one third of your site’s visitors are using a smartphone, a mobile version will give these visitors a better experience and therefore keep them on your site.
  • If you wish to link to a page and have a separate mobile website, you will need to note two links – one for mobile and one for regular.  For example, if you wish to link to your web page with your business hours, you’d need to call out the link for smartphone users and the link for non-smartphone device users.  With a responsive website, the same link will work for any device.