Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

Give yourself some peace of mind and let your website protect itself from attacks

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Cyber attacks are on the rise and while large scale attacks are generally aimed at large corporations or nation-states, the more common recipient of these unwanted incursions website owners.

These attacks can result in issues that range from malware infestations to a complete loss of online data. Finding out from your web host or worse, a client, that your website is infecting users computers with viruses, displaying inappropriate material or even down completely is a headache that any business owner would want to avoid. If these issues do occur, there are things can can be done through your host or third party vendors but at that point it can be very expensive to undo any damage.

The better option is to try to avoid the issue in the first place. That ounce of prevention you have heard so much about is soooooo much less trouble than the pound of cure offered up after the fact.

So what can you do? You have a website, sure, but that does not automatically make you techie enough to deal with this kind of issue, right? Wrong! There are some simple solutions out there that are designed for people like you to be able to implement without having to involve the likes of your nerdy, computer geek neighbor, Todd. Sure, his casual wardrobe of vintage Sci-Fi t-shirts and flip-flops is cool but you don’t really want his cheeto-dust covered fingers anywhere near your site if you can avoid it. Doing it yourself does not have to be scary and you have some options.

Integrated protection

For WordPress site owners the answer can be found in the form of a plugin called Wordfence. It is a very robust plugin that will block brute force attacks – that can result in your site being compromised in the first place while at the same time scanning your site for malware on a regular basis to make sure that nothing slipped through. It will even notify you when someone is trying to get in, it finds something wrong or even when your plugins have updates available.

You can search for it right from the add plugin page in you site admin and installing it can be done with the click of a button. After it is installed and activated, the plugin will walk you through things to get you setup right. The out-of-the-box setup works for most sites but you can adjust things however you like simply by checking boxes. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of nerdy stuff in there for the Todds of the world to geek out on but with the base settings in place, your site can stay blissfully cheeto-dust free. The base plugin won’t cost you anything and it has all of the features that most site owners need. That said, if you are more of a more-is-more kind of person, they do offer a premium version that includes added features and other support to slake your need to have everything available.

Protection Services

If your site requires a little bit more than a plugin will provide, there are services available to fit your needs. Most web hosts offer some type of this service but if your are going to go that route, I would make sure that you are getting what you need before committing your resources. Some sound good on the surface but when the odoriferous material strikes the oscillating machinery, what it sounded like at first does not always reflect what is provided. When looking into things like this, shop around. I recommend as an option, especially when comparing services offered directly from your host.

These types of services obviously will never match the low price-point for FREE but they often provide multiple levels of service to to fit your budget. As would be expected, a little more in the way of tech-savvy my be required with these types of services but they generally have support available to explain things or even set things up for you.

No matter whether you are a micro-entrepreneur with a simple site or a business with a more involved web presence, setting your website up to protect itself will save you time and money in the event that you become a victim of any kind of cyber attack.

Show your website some love through regular backups

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Once they are setup initially, websites are something that we all take for granted. This casual attitude toward something that is a core component to any business anymore can be problematic, especially in the event that something unforeseen happens.

Just think of all that time you spent developing your site with a designer, writer, marketing consultant or maybe it was all you, all the time. In any case, much time and energy was spent getting your site ready for prime time. Without regular backups all that time could have been for naught in the case of a hosting mishap or worse if you are the victim of the latest malware sweeping the net. WordPress is an awesome platform that works for businesses of any size but as its reach grows (currently 26% of indexed sites), so does the threat posed by possible attack. Automatic does a pretty good job of keeping WordPress ahead of the curve (as do plugin vendors) but if you are not as fastidious as you should be in your updates, breaches can occur and that can be devastating to a site owner.

Malware can be as simple as some kind of redirect added to your site header and it can be as insidious as to infect all files on your site as well as your database content. There are cleaning services that are offered by most hosts but these can be expensive. The better option for most business is to have regular site backups to rely on so you can easily roll things back to a clean state prior to the issue. The more regular the backups, the better chance you will have of not losing anything in the process.

There are a great many backup plugins available for wordpress and they all offer different levels of protection for what you need. When considering one, you need to make sure that it not only can backup everything you need backed up (DB, site files, etc) but it also has the ability to restore things easily. I have used many of these plugins over time and most of them will allow you to back things up easily enough but restoration is a bit more complex.

Of all the plugins I have used, Updraft Plus is hands down, the best across the board. It will not only allow you to backup your database, theme files, uploads and wordpress core files but it allows you to save them locally or on a remote server and is a snap to restore any part or all of the above from each backup it does. The plugin is free for basic use which should be more than enough for most entrepreneurs or small businesses. It also offers a number of individual premium add-ons that can make things easier for cloning and/or migrating your site to another domain, support for network/multisite installations of WordPress, enhanced scheduling or additional remote storage options. There is even a premium option that will allow you to restore from another products’ backup.

Whether you take my advice on using Updraft Plus specifically or not, you should definitely show your website some love with the regular backups it deserves. It will save your sanity in the event of any website based calamity.

In case you are still questioning things, you should simply heed the immortal words of Eric Stratton when he said, “You’d better listen to him, Flounder. He’s in Pre-med.” He was spot on with that advice because you don’t want someone like me to have to doctor your site after a series of unfortunate events or even an individual one.

Remember this mantra and you will be set. Backup early and backup often!

Kick It Up a Notch!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

As we begin each year, we turn our attention toward new goals. Unfortunately, no matter how excited we are when those goals are set, most of us have a tendency to lose site of things all too quickly. This loss of focus is a universally accepted practice for personal goals but it can be much more detrimental when we drop the ball on our businesses goals, especially as it relates to marketing.

Although business marketing is often the redheaded step-child of most companies, to truly succeed, it is not something that we can forget to pick up from swim practice just because Alejandro’s evil twin has just came back from the dead on General Hospital and we really want to see how things play out now that he is a woman. We have to endeavor not to make pie-crust promises (easily made – easily broken) regarding our marketing resolutions. We need to make them with care and be sure they always come out golden brown and flaky.

One of the easiest business resolutions to keep can be with your online marketing. And what better place to start than by kicking your website up a notch? There are a variety of ways this can be done from something as simple as changing the images and colors to a content overhaul or total site redesign. No matter where your needs fall, now is the time to assess and make plans for the coming year. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your website look like it is caught in a time loop where it is perpetually 1998?
  • Have you made changes to other marketing channels like social media but your website does not quite seem like it has caught up?
  • Is there such a disparity between your current marketing materials and your website that people are not entirely sure they are in the right place when they try to check out your company online?

If any of these scenarios apply to you, your business might be suffering from Mar-ket-tile dysfunction and a website update could be just the little blue pill that your company needs to get to the next level. No matter whether you need a quick menu re-organization or a total “do-over”, a little bit of time spent now can go a long way toward helping you reach your annual sales goals. And, BAM! you will be cooking with gas for the rest of the year!

Mobile Friendly Or Bust

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Does your website look as good and work as well on a mobile device as it does on a computer? It should–especially if you want a higher ranking on Google’s search pages.

As of April 21, 2015, Google’s search algorithm now ranks sites based on how mobile friendly they are. In other words, if you site is not mobile optimized, it will show up farther down in the search page results.

Passing The Test

According to industry experts, the new algorithm will look for sites with responsive design and best practices for mobile devices. This includes:

  • Text that can be read without zooming
  • Content that doesn’t require scrolling or zooming
  • Links that are sized and spaced to allow for easy selection on smaller screens
  • Eliminating the use of Flash since mobile devices don’t generally support it
  • Requiring fewer clicks to perform a specific task

The evaluation is done for each individual page on a site, not the entire site as a whole, so you can start by optimizing the most critical page on your site and going on from there. At the moment, tablets are not part of this new search process, but that’s coming soon.

If you’re not sure how you stand, Google has created a site where you can check your mobile friendliness.

Besides Google Rank, Why This Matters

Perhaps the biggest reason to have a mobile-friendly site is that it will help you keep up with or move ahead of your competition.

Over 60 percent of all web searches are now done on mobile devices, so you stand to lose current and potential customers if they can’t effectively navigate your site on a smart phone or tablet. The better the experience, the more likely they’ll come back to you again and again.

If you’ve been procrastinating on creating a mobile friendly website, it’s now more important than ever that you step up and make the change.

If It’s Fast, They Will Stay

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Ta-da! Your new website has just been published. The design is daring, the copy is compelling, and the SEO is superb! But how’s the speed? All the bells and whistles aren’t much good if people won’t stay on your site because it’s too slow.

Why Speed Matters

Studies show that even a one second delay in loading a page can result in 11 percent fewer page views and drop customer satisfaction by a whopping 16 percent.

Cloud services expert Akamai found that 40 percent of browsers will abandon a web page that takes longer than three seconds to load and that about 47 percent believe a web page should load in no more than two seconds.

Along with creating a good user experience, a fast website can improve your search engine rank as well as your Ad Words Quality Score.

Google actually uses desktop and mobile page speed as part of its ranking algorithm. It’s not the most important factor, but it can be what moves your site ahead of another with the same relevance and authority. A high search ranking can then help boost your AdWords score which in turn affects your costs per click among other things.

Now that you know why page speed is important, here’s how to make it happen.

How To Improve It

It’s hard to fix something if you don’t exactly what’s broken, so the first step is to learn your current Page Speed Score using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.

The scores range from 0 to 100, and 85 or higher generally means your site has decent performance speed. You also get a report with very specific data and exact instructions on how to boost your speed score to improve your website’s overall user experience.

If you’re not technically inclined, an experienced web developer can run this report and will understand how to implement any suggested or required changes.

So while slow and steady might win the race in some situations, fast and exciting is what will make your website a winner in your market space.


What The Heck Is A Heat Map–And Why Do I Need It?

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Setting up your business website is just the first step in creating a successful business. You also need to know how well your website is working and, more specifically, what things are performing better than others to draw in customers.

One lesser-known but effective way to do this is with a heat map.

How It Works

A heat map uses colors to represent what’s being measured. In medicine, you’ll often see heat maps used to assess brain activity or other physical functions. Red generally represents a great deal of action and blue the least amount, with lots of variations in between.

It works the same way for a website except that colors, not numbers, are used to represent activity such as clicks and views. With just a glance you can see where people are clicking most and least on your website and can then make the right adjustments to optimize your site.

For example, with a heat map you can easily see that clicks on your “Free Trial” link have gone from red to blue in the last month. As a result, you might want to change the link’s design, location or wording to try and improve the click rate.

Creating A Heat Map

Crazy EggClick Heats, and Clicktale are some sites where you can learn more about heat maps. If you’re familiar with coding, you can check out this website for a tutorial on creating your own heat map.

However, your first best option would be to check with your web designer to see if they offer this service or get their recommendation on where to get one created.

For many people (myself included), deciphering lots of numbers is neither easy nor enjoyable, which makes us avoid the important task of evaluating and re-working our website when required. A heat map is a great way to understand and track the effectiveness of your website to help it create the best results for your business.

Crock Pot Marketing: A fix to and forget it appraoch to online marketing

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Marketing is the bane of most entrepreneurs existence. On one hand it is necessary to communicate with your potential customer base while on the other hand it can be an incredible time suck taking you away from the business of running your business. It needs to be done and as the business owner you are the ideal person to get potential customers the info they need, so what is the answer? I can name that tune in one note…Automation.

Marketing, Marketing, Will Robinson

Ok, so maybe Robbie the robot is not exactly the type of automation we are talking about here but a factory analogy is not too far off. Think about it, the key to marketing (once you have figured out your message and the best way to present it of course) is messaging consistently over time to your potential customer base. The problem that most entrepreneurs face is the same issue that plagued the manufacturing industry in years past, volume. And how did manufacturers resolve the issue? Automation. So why not apply a similar principle to your marketing efforts? I know I am not making an apples-to-apples comparison here but you get the idea. It is all about having the time to generate the appropriate volume whether it be physical product or marketing content. We have established that the key to marketing is the number of touches (and no, not bad touches) you make with a potential client over time but just because you want to connect with them on an ongoing basis does not mean that you have to come back next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel to bang out more brilliant insights. It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to get into a marketing frame of mind for their own business (even if that is what they do for others) so why not maximize that time when lightning strikes and begin filling a crock pot with marketing gems so you can set it to cook slowly, releasing your brilliance as it heats over the course of an automated campaign?

Recipes for Success

Ok, now you are sold. You know you can count on one or two good days each quarter when you can not only concentrate on marketing your company but you are actually interested in doing it. You have the ingredients, now all that is left is to find the right appliance to turn your marketing recipe into the culinary masterpiece you know it to be. So what are the Consumer Reports best buys for automated marketing:

One of the easiest ways to automate your marketing efforts is through Scheduled blog posting.  Blog platforms often allow you to set a date and time for your postings to go live. WordPress is especially good at this. You can hack out 10 blog draft blog postings and then schedule them to go live at the date and time of your choosing. This allows you to sit down on that one day a quarter and get it all out, all of the industry innovations, customer epiphanies and other nuggets of brilliance related to your business that have been building up but you had not been able to release to the wild. Then once you have extracted every last drop of insight, you can go through and set your wisdom to a slow drip so its magic fingers will touch your clients as regularly as possible. So then you can get back to the business of running your business secure in the knowledge that even though you are not even thinking about marketing anymore, your clients are receiving the benefit of your experience. And once your marketing build up reaches a critical level again you can just rinse and repeat to reset the circle of life.

Email can work in much the same way with the added benefit of your appliance restarting itself for each new subscription so each individual feels the magic fingers at the exact same rate and in the exact same order no matter when they turned on the heat. How does this miracle appliance work you ask? The simple answer is “AutoResponder”. Now I know what you are thinking, “hey, wait a minute, that is what I set when I go on vacation, how can that possible fulfill the promise that you have laid out?” But worry not, the name might be the same but the function is drastically different. Email providers like MailChimp, aWeber or even a more involved service like 1ShoppingCart allow you to set up serialized  autoresponders that run as a result of a subscription to a given email list. These autoresponders generally allow you to set up multiple emails as well as a time delay from the initial subscription so that they can be sent in the order you want them received and with the appropriate time delay between each so your touches can trickle out at the proper rate.

Social Media
Social Media content distribution can also be automated  as an additional prong in your email and/or blogging efforts. Most blogging platforms and email providers offer options for direct social media integration so as soon as your blast of radiance hits your blog or email system, the same information can be immediately distributed to your different social media outlets like Facebook, and Twitter allowing you to magnify your audience all while you are focusing your time on servicing existing customer and business needs.

The bottom line is that through small time commitments and simple automation, entrepreneurs can effectively market themselves without sacrificing the business they are trying to build in the process.

Enhancing Your Networking (social or otherwise)

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Every entrepreneur needs to network in one  form or another in order to bring in new business. There are many different ways this can be done from local networking groups to online social networking and everywhere in-between. No matter how you you decide to network (and yes I am aware that the way you treat individual networks might vary greatly), the dynamics are universal. So when it comes to networking always remember to SPEW. No, not kind of spew (eww).  I mean S.P.E.W. as in Support, Participate, Engage, Woo. Still not getting it? Maybe this will help:

SupportGoing into any networking situation you should always be willing to give of yourself. No one knows your industry better than you so when questions and/or opportunities arise, it is time to rise to the occasion. Give advice and suggest where people can go for help. This will not only set you up as an authority within your group for your industry but it will stick with the members of your group when they are interacting with others. And when any questions come up in conversation that pertain to your area of expertise, they will think of you and refer you without another thought.
ParticipateGet involved in the conversation. No matter what is being said take the time to listen and offer your perspectives on the topic based on your experience. This will help people get to know you through shared experience and help build the trust needed for business exchange.
EngageBe sociable with people in your networks. Get to know them and help them get to know you on a more personal level. The key to networking is the “Know Me”, “Like Me”, “Trust Me”. Trust is obviously the most important when it comes to getting people to refer others to you for business but that trust has to start somewhere. That starting point can be as simple as a few words about a common interest
WooActively promote your network and the people in it to others. Listen to what your group members say so that when you are interacting with others and questions come up about group members areas of expertise, you can return the referral favor.

If you are serious about your networking or even if you are just dabbling, you defiantly need to SPEW. And once you start to SPEW, you will wonder why you weren’t SPEWing all along. You might even find yourself SPEWing in your daily life just for fun.

So why are you still hanging out here? Get out there and start SPEWing. SPEW in your social Networks, SPEW in your local networks and SPEW everywhere in-between.

5 Easy ways to Stress Free business blogging

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Everyone who has a business blog (and whose business is not blogging) has the same issue, content. You got into business to do what you do best not write about it but in order for others to know about it, you need to get them to your site. To get them to your site you need to enhance your SEO. The best way to enhance your SEO is regular content updates and the easiest way to regularly update your content is with your blog. Everyone knows they should be blogging but figuring out what to write about is not only a huge source of stress, but sometimes the bane of an entrepreneur’s existence. But it does not have to be that way. In fact if you look hard enough you will find that half of your work is already done.

So with that in mind I offer you these 5 easy content sources for your business blog (Ginsu Carving knives not included).

  1. Customer questions
    When it comes to content the first and best place to go (which is where most of my most polished gems emanate) is right to your customers. Those questions you answer time and time again with each new client. Those things that you take for granted and just roll off your tongue without a thought. Those are perfect fodder for new posts. And if you play your cards right, you can take one common question and turn it into a series of posts. Just think of all of the great material you have at your finger tips. No, seriously, think about it…NOW….See, there is a lot of stuff in there that you did not realize you had. No mater how run of the mill you think it is, if it is a question you answer regularly or information you routinely provide to new customers, then as Jeff Foxworthy might say “iiiit might be a blog post”.
  2. Competition
    Another great place to look is back to your old school motto, “When in doubt, plagiarise”. OK, well not exactly but stay with me. One of the best sources for information for your blog can be your competition. Yep, you heard me, competition. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t want to copy what they are doing, I am different”. Well true as that may be, they can still be a good source of ideas. Take a look at the information your competitors provide about their products and services and no matter how different you are, it will give you ideas that are all your own. And sometimes you might just find content that could be helpful to your clients on its own. In those cases you don’t actually want to copy what they have but take that idea and create your own version of it that is tailored specifically to your business and your clients. And you don’t have to limit yourself to direct competitors, you can look around the net and see who is doing what in your space and jot down some topics because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  3. Webinars or other marketing materials
    When sourcing content for your blog you should never overlook existing materials especially things like webinars. Many companies put webinars on a regular basis to keep clients up to speed on products or services and with each new one you do you can be sure to find at least one posts-worth of information. Even if you have already covered the content in a cursory way on your site or in a brochure make sure to look closely because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  4. Industry changes
    Changes in your industry are another no-brainer for content. When new reports come out that have any bearing on what you do, its time to play telephone and repeat what you’ve heard. You should try not to lose any meaning in the translation but you understand what I mean. First make sure that the information is potentially valuable to your clients and potential clients. Then all you have to do is take the information you have received and put it in your own words and,  “iiit might be a blog post”.
  5. Customer success
    When it comes to blogging, customer success is often overlooked but your blog is a perfect forum for sharing this information with current and potential clients. Think about it. You can keep it simple and just explain how Company X is making use of your product or service. Other clients or potential clients can see that and put themselves into the story. No matter how specific a product or service is, every company that uses it will use it slightly differently. This differentiation opens up the possibilities for existing customers to see new ways of making use of what they already have or why they might need something else from you. So when it comes to customers, no matter what you are doing for them, you can now look at them with fresh eyes and realize that, “iiit might be a blog post”.

There is a virtual plethora of other simple sources out there just waiting to make your life easier. So get out there and let them be discovered because you never know,  “iiit might be a blog post”.

SEO…what’s that about?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

When you start looking into internet marketing, you start to hear a lot about three little letters…S.E.O. but what do they mean? SEO or Search engine optimization is the process of enhancing website traffic (volume or quality) from search engines through organic (also known as “natural” or un-paid) results.

That’s great, but it sounds complicated, so what can I do about it?

Well, surprisingly enough there is quite a bit you can do to give your site a leg up without spending a ton of money. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the big SEO companies out there. But when you first go online or even if you are just small and want to give your site a boost, there are several things you can do for free to enhance your sites traffic.

First things first, before you even consider starting your SEO, you need to understand your company and your customers. Creating an analog for your ideal customers can help a great deal. Sex, age, geography and socio-economic status are a good place to start. Once you have the basics, it is time to get inside their heads because when you do, you will begin to see your business the way they do and that will help you better communicate and anticipate what they want.

Now that you know yourself and have a better idea of your customers, you are ready to make use of your new found knowledge.

The best way to prepare your site for SEO is to build your pages with keyword density in mind. Even if you plan to hire an SEO company to bring you to the top of the heap, this is where they will start to get the ball rolling so why not beat them to the punch and make them work for the money you plan to spend. Keyword density is a way focusing the content on your site toward using the search terms you know your ideal customers will use when searching for a product or service like yours.

Lets start with your Meta Description and Meta Keywords. These two items are the basis for most everything else you will do. The meta description is a very succinct statement describing your business while the meta key words are a list of the search terms and phrases that you feel will get the most play with your customer base. Meta keywords are widely considered to be useless anymore but entering them here is a good way for you to get everything straight as you develop your content.

Meta descriptions should be no longer than 156 characters including spaces while keywords should be limited to 256 characters including spaces. Google crops anything beyond these amounts so refine your keywords and descriptions accordingly.

Next we will move on to the page title. Make it meaningful to the content on the page and be sure to use the specific search terms or keyword phrases that customers are likely to use related to the information being presented.

From here it gets a bit easier. All you need to do now is write the content for your page keeping your keywords in mind as you do it and making sure that you use keyword rich file naming an descriptions in your included page images.

There are a variety of other things you can do on your own to help the search engines help your business including creating a site map and some simple PR strategies to help increase external links to your site, but I will cove those another time.