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Is your Web Designer LEGIT?

When it comes to the World Wide Web and the sites that live upon it, some small business owners can be a little naive about how it all works.

There are so many aspects to take into account – domain names, hosting, email accounts, analytics, SEO and social media to name just a few of the items that need to be taken into consideration when getting a business online.

That’s why business owners like to hand over all those aspects to their website developer and say “please take care of this for me!”

There is a lot of trust being placed in that last statement – websites can be a big investment and, as a small business owner, you need to be able to rely upon your website “guys” to do the right thing. But, as in other industries, there are people who will take advantage of this.

If you are about to embark on the process of getting a web designer, or your current designer just doesn’t “feel right”, a little research will guide you to a reputable website design business.

Ask Around

Take a look at the websites of businesses in your immediate network (probably not your competitors). If possible, ask the business owners some key questions about their sites:

  • Who was their designer?
  • Who they would recommend and why?
  • Is the site generating the business that they need?
  • Is the site difficult to update?
  • What was the design process like when working with the web developer?

Positive testimonials work for all industries including web design so find out who would do the best job for your particular business.

Check out the web designer’s current portfolios.

All reputable designers will display their work on their own websites so check them out. Make sure that they can deliver styles that are current (not from the late 90’s) and relevant to your business.

Check for generic design Themes

One very important aspect that needs to be checked to ensure that you don’t get ripped off – make sure that you are not going to be paying for a generic template unless it has been made very clear that is exactly what you are paying for. These templates are not created just for your business and may have been used thousands of times. Working with anyone that uses them can be dangerous as the “designer” may not have the skills to create / modify / reprogram the design to your specific needs.

A quick way to check for generic templates:

  • Go to one of the sites they have “built” and copy the URL from the address bar at the top of your web browser.
  • Go to http://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ and paste the URL into the box provided.

This site quickly looks through the code and will tell you if the site is designed with the WordPress CMS (which is fine) and what theme the site is created with. If that theme is commercially available, this site will also tell you where you can buy it.

Too many times, I have seen so-called “Web Designers” that charge their customers exorbitant amounts of money for “designing” a site which can be purchased elsewhere for a little as $30!  All the “designer” does is change the imagery and add some text.

A website should be seen as exactly the same as any other investment in your business. You would research any new equipment or plant that you are purchasing for your business, so why not research who is going to build your website – the marketing tool that can drive business straight your door.

Without an effective website, built by someone who cares specifically about your business, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table from potential clients and digging a big hole in your marketing budget.

SEO Checklist for Site Owners

Website owners often think that SEO factors such as keywords, title tags and descriptions are the key to ranking well in Google.

While they are still important, the Google algorithm has evolved and the practice of optimising just these parts of a web page are long gone – the “GoogleBot” now delves deeper into the context of a page and how your site interlinks with other sites on the World Wide Web. 

This checklist has been created to help site owners improve their page content in the eyes of the search engines. It also includes tips to improve vital external SEO factors as well.

#1 Keywords & Topics

Before any work starts on improving the SEO of your page content, spend a few minutes and write down the words and phrases your prospective customers might use to find your website. You may need to conduct research with your target audience to determine what they are looking for in your business.

#2 Content

Check that your written content has been created specifically for the target audience of the chosen topic or information. It needs to be relevant and consistent throughout the page – Google will pick up on your keywords and titles, checking these closely against the content you have written.  

#3 Page Title

The main title of each page on your site needs be relevant to the content and act as a unique tag for search engines. It should be a maximum of 60 characters and, if possible, contain the keywords that are most pertinent to the page topic.

The same rules apply for any sub-headings you may have throughout your content.

#4 Body Copy

Without over-obsessing on the usage of key words, check through the content on each of your pages to ensure that there is a scattering of the words that you anticipate your target audience will be using in their searches. With that in mind, ensure that your content still reads fluidly and makes sense without too much “jargon”.

#5 Tag every Image

Search engines can’t “see” images on your website. As a result, they can’t be used for search algorithm purposes unless they have been tagged with an Alt Attribute. These attributes are the small text boxes that you often see when you float your cursor over an image on a web page.

The Alt text helps the search engines understand what an image is about. These tags are a perfect way to add more keywords into a “hidden” part of your web page content.

#6 Inbound Links

Inbound links, also known as backlinks, are a great way for your website to gain attention and credibility with Google and other search engines. When established and authoritative websites link to your small business site, you automatically “inherit” some of their importance in the eyes of Google.

How do you get these other sites to link to your site? Create great content that people naturally want to link to and let them know about it. You can also look to foster quality links through natural business connections and networking opportunities.

Reciprocal links are also a great way to help each other out – “You link to me and I’ll link back to you.”

#7 Social Media and Online Directories

For this step, head to Google and type in your business name. If your business has been around for a while, you’ll see several search results from directories such as Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor, etc. Click on each and register your website address – in some cases, you may need to create a login. Each one that you add your address to could potentially become a backlink to your site.

Check that your business’ social media platforms have the site address listed as well. This ensures    that, if your target customer finds your social media first, they’ll still end up on your website.

Conclusion

While the list above is by no means comprehensive, by carrying out each of the steps shown, you will be placing your website in a good position to be found by Google and ranked accordingly. Tweaks to SEO are inevitable to improve your ranking over time and it is suggested that you check your search position every week to determine what SEO changes need to be made.

Your business needs a Website – why not do it yourself?

I love YouTube and its intuitive advertisement system – I believe it is a very clever way to target a certain demographic with the correct type of ad. Only problem is that I am always targeted with DIY website builder advertisements and one in particular is driving me crazy atm. It starts with the simple statement (I won’t give away the business name) – “You need a Website – Why not do it yourself?”

Where do I start to answer that question?

These days, there are literally hundreds of online website builders that offer free or supposedly cheap site design for business owners who want to create their online presence. Sign up, choose a template, chuck in some content and imagery and away you go. But as I have said previously, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

There are numerous pitfalls and traps related with using these websites that the casual user may not see. If you have bigger plans than just creating a quick site, such as generating traffic, expanding your business and generating profits – you must stay well away from these quickie sites.

Here’s the top five reasons why:

1. Building a website is not easy! 

There’s to a site than meets the eye. Not only does a website have to look good, it has to “act” in a certain way in order to drive customers into making a purchase or acquiring your services. That’s after they find you in the first place!

A good website has search engine optimisation, backup facilities, content management system, call to actions and many other components planned individually to suit your particular business and integrated into the design from day one. There is absolutely no way that an online builder knows (or even cares) what your business needs. This is what a real web designer comes in handy!

2. You don’t want the same site as everyone else – you want your own!

Using an online site builder involves using a template design – a pre-designed layout which you customise with your logo and content. If you are lucky, you may even be able to alter the theme colours – to a pre-set range of options, of course.

What this invariably means is there is potential for your site to look exactly the same as dozens of others. Chances are, if you liked a particular template, so did hundreds of small business owners around the globe. You will definitely not have that individual look that should define your site from all the others.

C’mon – your business should be as individual as you are – and so should your website.

3. Your site can disappear at any time!

“Never build your house on someone else’s land.” If you are ever tempted to go with an online site builder (paid subscriber or free), be very aware of the small print in the “Terms and Conditions.” The service provider, whoever that may be, reserves the right to remove any site at their own discretion, even if there is no legal reason for doing so.

That right!

The online site builder can go belly up overnight or just decide they don’t like you and your precious site is history. Add to that, the headquarters may be in Israel and your legal rights don’t have any weight at all there.

4. We actually care about your site and how it works for you.

There is absolutely no connection between your business and the online site builders during any stage of the process. You never speak to anyone and email is the only way to communicate. Even then, you will probably “converse” with a different service centre controller each time.

When you choose an actual web designer, we talk to you throughout the design of your website. We check that our decisions are on the mark and ensure that you are entirely happy with the results. This is essential to create a site that works specifically for your business.

On top of this, we need to ensure that your site is the best it can be because the success of our own business relies on “happy” customers. If you aren’t happy with the end results, you probably won’t refer us onto anyone and you definitely won’t give us a shining testimonial. That’s not good for business.

5. Your site should be your own – not covered with advertisements for other businesses.

If you opt for the free version of most online site builders, you will end up with a big banner ad somewhere on your site stating that “THIS SITE WAS CREATED WITH …. – BUILD YOUR OWN FOR FREE!”

Not exactly that professional look you are aiming for.

As web designers, Rusty Mango puts its name at the bottom of websites that we build because we are proud of what we do. It also tends to help a little built with your site’s SEO. But we don’t put something there to scream out “GET US TO BUILD YOUR WEBSITE!” – That’s just rude.

Taking all of the above into account, the reality is that if you want your website done right, don’t do it yourself. With the precious time that you spend learning the system, creating the site and populating it with content, the end result is still a site that just doesn’t work. That’s time you could be spending more effectively working on your business, making sales and providing service to your customers.

Instead spend a little time finding a web designer that produces the type of work that you want (check their portfolio) and you feel comfortable working with to build and maintain your website. This will prove to be a much better investment in the long run.

Five Security Fixes your site needs right now!

Currently, there are over 1.6 billion websites on the WWW and your business website is just one of them. “There’s safety in numbers” you might say when talking about your site’s security – “why would anyone target me?”

HackerIt’s important to know that Cyber Criminals and Spammers don’t physically trawl the web, using “bots” * instead to scour millions of sites every day. Looking for ways to hack into systems, they don’t care who you are or what your site is. If these bots find a weakness or backdoor to your site, you may be in trouble.

*specially coded programs

Benjamin Franklin wisely said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so here’s five site security fixes that you can implement today:

#1 – Get a Security Certificate for your site.

A security (SSL) certificate is an addition to your website server* Google that creates a secure link between a website and a visitor’s browser by confirming the site’s legitimacy.

If your site doesn’t have one, you risk being penalised by Google (and other search engines) with a drop in your search ranking. In addition, site visitors may be receiving warnings form their browsers that your site is “not secure”.

Luckily, an SSL certificate is quick to install on most web servers. Simply contact your service provider and ask for a certificate to be installed.

* the place where your site’s files live on the internet.

#2 – SPAM Controls

You would have to be living on another planet to not have been the recipient of SPAM emails. It is the bane of every single inbox on the planet. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to stop SPAM completely but there are several things you can do to reduce the risk.

  • Make sure that your online forms are all guarded by Google’s new ReCaptcha protocol. It’s invisible and it works.
  • Update all plugins on your site to their latest versions whenever new versions are released.
  • Check that your web server has effective SPAM filters at its core level.

#3 – Plugin Updates

As mentioned above, if your site uses plugins for any of its core functions, make sure that you update them whenever a new release becomes available. If your site is built on the WordPress framework, this includes the core as well.

Hackers continually look for ways into vulnerable servers and will use any weakness to break their way into your site. An out of date plugin (or WordPress version) on your site could be the weak link they are looking for.

#4 – Latest Version of PHP

PHP is a programming language used in the development of many modern website and, just like plugins, there are new versions of PHP released on a regular basis. These updates are not only for closing any security vulnerabilities but also includes adding new functionalities to the language that can then be used for new functions on your website.

As with plugins, you can easily keep your PHP version up to date (usually via your web server’s Control Panel).

#5 – Install WordFence

If you haven’t guessed by now, WordPress is my website framework of choice for developing. One of the reasons for this is the amazing range of plugins that add further functionality to the basic core of the framework.

One of these is the excellent security plugin Wordfence. Wordfence provides a range of features and options for site owners that help protect their sites from hacking. On top of this, Wordfence provides monitoring of the other components in a site and notifies, via email, when action needs to be taken.

There are two versions of Wordfence, a free version which provides basic protection as outlined above, and a premium version which includes top level protection for your site.

Wordfence is a must for any site built using WordPress.

Conclusion

Nearly all the security measures outlined here can be implemented by a regular site owner with access to their site’s “backend”. However, if you require assistance at any time bolstering the security of your website, please get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design and we will take care it for you – hassle free.

Why Online Stores are the Best Thing since Sliced Bread

In small towns across North Queensland (and elsewhere I’m sure), there is evidence of an economic downturn on every main street.

Online StoresMany small shop fronts are sitting empty with no real outlook to opening again anytime soon. The factors behind this situation are many and varied but one of the most common blames is put directly onto the rise of online shopping.

If your business sells products of any shape or form, whether they are toasters, cars or even houses, there is absolutely no reason why you should miss out on a cut of the market by not having your very own ecommerce store. It doesn’t matter if you are a huge conglomerate with hundreds of stores nationwide or the local dress shop marketing your own fashions, everyone can have a slice of the pie if they are clever and utilise the power of the web.

There is a huge recompense to having an online store that most business owners don’t recognise, and these advantages can’t be achieved through a regular bricks and mortar store.

An online store has no landlord!

Not a single cent is paid in rent for your online store. The only costs you will incur, other than the original design of your site, is the monthly/yearly charge for your web server, the domain name and charges from outside agencies such as PayPal and/or your bank.

When you compare this to the cost of leasing a shop, you can guess who comes out in front. Talking to local business owners in my home town has shown me that the cost of a lease is one of the biggest factors forcing businesses to close. There’s not enough custom through the front door to warrant the outlay. No such problem with an online shop.

Levels the playing field with the Big Guys

When you operate an online store, you can pretend to be as big or small as you want. Many small online operators like to push the “smaller” operation approach as this can help to give you that personal touch missing from one of the larger stores. However, stores like Harvey Norman are trying to cash in on this notion by utilising a chat system that pops up at the bottom of the shop screen. Once again, the small business owner can compete with this through the use of a very simple plug in like ClickDesk or LiveChat.

Open for Business 24/7

An online store means that you can make a sale – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even when you are asleep, your site can be making for you. Imagine logging on at work each morning (during the business week, of course) and seeing a whole backlog of purchases that were made and paid for even while the physical offices of your business were shut! The advantages of this should be whole apparent – you can’t do this with a bricks and mortar store. Once again, you can compete with the big guys – on their level.

Customer Interaction

An Ecommerce store can also be integrated with a healthy Social Media campaign allowing the store to “converse” with customers and potential customers in a friendly environment. Any problems or questions about products and services can be solved with no awkward or sometimes aggravated face to face contact. Tips and tricks can be passed on almost immediately to patrons with no wait time (depending on the level of customer service available) – business owners can answer issues from the luxury of their armchairs at home if they want.

An ideal example of this customer interaction can be seen in full use by Blackmilk Clothing on both their Facebook pages and website. Happy customers can be seen happily conversing with the Blackmilk team and showing off their latest purchases on the pages of the site. In return, the Blackmilk team gets instant feedback and direction, straight from the people wearing their gear.

Final Note

An online store can add an extra line of revenue to a business and it doesn’t even have to be the end of the physical shop front. Caravans Plus in Queanbeyan operate both with an offer in their ecommerce checkout that allows customers to order online and pickup in person, a perfect setup for the grey nomad travelling through that part of the world. No freight!

If you are interested in creating an online store, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design and have a chat about what is possible for your business. We can create ecommerce stores for all types of businesses, large and small.

 

Top Five Reasons to Avoid Wix (and similar) for your business website

Reading the title of this blog post would be enough to make even the most casual reader look up and say “Well, of course you are going to say that! You build websites for a living!”

Dont use website buildersTrue, but if you look beyond my aspirations to become your web developer of choice, there are a lot of perfectly valid reasons why you should avoid free website builders for your business or organisation. In this post, I will list a few of the most important however with a little more research, you can discover dozens more.

#5

We actually give a damn about you and your business. Might sound a little clichéd however our business is based on the success of your site. If we fail to build a site that works for you, we are not doing our job properly and you won’t hesitate to go somewhere else and you most definitely will not refer us to your networks.

A local web development cares enough about doing the job right that they will consult with you at every stage of the game plan – design, development, content, social media and SEO. On top of all this, you will have the local support you need at the end of the day if things aren’t going to plan.

The only people that wix.com, GoDaddy, Vistaprint and other online site builders care about are their owners/shareholders.

#4

Most of these website builders sell (and pride) themselves on the short time frame that it takes to create a site and get it online. Build a site in 20 minutes! Be online in less time that it takes to bake a cake. Doesn’t your business deserve a little more attention, time and effort so that you can create a worthwhile and effective online presence? A website is your business’ public face, a portal where your potential customers can come and visit 24/7 and see what you are all about. A good website that is spot-on designed for your individual brand is no doubt going to take longer than just 20 minutes!

Invest the time and you will most definitely reap the rewards.

#3

Wix.com brands each of its website with its own logo and link at the very bottom of every page – “THIS SITE WAS CREATED WITH WIX.COM CREATE YOUR OWN FOR FREE”. Each Tropical Coast Web Design site has our name at the bottom however we aren’t doing it for our own gain – though we are very proud of our work.

The linking between sites is very important for SEO purposes and we link to each and every one of the sites we create on our portfolio page. Having links working in both directions is great for the SEO of the sites involved. But we definitely are not doing a hard sell by having our link on your page.

#2

In cyberspace, no-one can hear you scream. That includes the boffins from Wix, Facebook or any of the online site builders. You get absolutely no personal support. If you have questions, and are very lucky, you may receive an email response but you can pretty much guarantee no phone calls.

By contracting your own designer, you have access to personal support for your website. Tried an update and crashed the site? Your designer will have you back online within the day (if you have a good one!). Need to expand your website with a minimal of hassle? Use your developer.

Don’t like the service you are getting? If you are locked into a contract with an online site builder, you can’t just jump ship. With a developer, your site can move with you.

#1

Domain names ordered through an online site builder can cause absolute nightmares should you wish to move away and build a site. A recent client contacted us to build a website that would allow her expand her business. Her previous site, built online, was inadequate for her current requirements. When we contacted her online site builder to arrange transfer of the domain name, it was discovered that her domain name was tied in some sort of contractual hell. In the end, it was simpler to register a whole new domain name (the other name will eventually expire and drop away). Not an ideal solution but a good reminder to be sure that your domain name is registered to you, not your web developer.

When it is all said and done, you should just remember the old saying – “Don’t build your home on rented land.” If you build on any of the online services, your site is essentially being constructed on borrowed land. If these services crash tomorrow and disappear forever, your site is gone too – quite often without the chance of a backup.

This applies to the new templates that you can use with your Facebook Business page. Sure it looks like your business website but don’t forget, Facebook lays claims to anything on its network and that includes your pages as well!

The alternative from online site builders should be very clear from this discussion – go and hire a trustworthy developer to design a website for you to meet your custom needs. This includes branding, imagery, content and SEO requirements. Along with all the facts presented before, contracting a professional web developer to build your site ensures that you are personally consulted along every step of the design and you own the work when it is completed.

Five Home Page “Tricks” to lower your Bounce Rate.

Information Overload = High Bounce Rate = Poor Website Performance

Five "Tricks" to lower your Bounce Rate.In numerous blogs, books and forums, small business owners are told from the very beginnings of their online forays that content marketing is a must for a successful website. Any solid marketing advice will say “You must create FAQs, blog posts, videos, podcasts, Facebook feeds, how-to sheets, free e-books, Tweets and Pins for your site to REALLY connect with your target audience.” This is good advice, after all, Google loves fresh content and so do those visitors who return to your site.

But there is inherent danger with all this information – having been told to create it, some website owners get carried away. And, unfortunately, your website visitors may not appreciate this content as much as you do – especially if it is displayed to them all at once.

By this I mean, displaying it all on the very first page of a website – also known as the landing page.

If you overwhelm your visitors as soon as they arrive on your site, you may find that this overload of information result in a “Bounce Rate”*. 

The key to solving this problem is to remember this simple point at all times: your site visitors have arrived at your site seeking only one of two things, information and engagement. Think back to any site that you have ever visited – you have sought out those sites out to either find out more about the business and their services/products or, engage them in further conversation (which can take many forms) to potentially make a purchase.

So how do we avoid information overload on key pages of your website?

Try to keep information in line with the five basics of a good home page:

1. A catching headline that includes your keywords.

If you are a plumber in Innisfail, use a title liked “Professional Plumbing Services – Innisfail.” Keep Google happy by staying under its preferred title length which is 70 characters.

2. A solid sub headline paragraph (or two) that briefly describes who you are and what you do.

Visitors love a story so you could also talk about what you can do for them but don’t get use jargon, remember to apply the K.I.S.S.* principle here.

3. Display your immediate contact information in the top right hand corner of the page.

If you want people to ring you, show the phone number in a large font. If you prefer emails, show the email address. Remember to keep it all mobile friendly by ensuring that both of these can be clicked/tapped.

4. Make your Call to Action very clear.

In most cases, this is what you prospective customers will be looking for so make it STAND OUT! Don’t make customers search for your latest deals or booking forms, make them so obvious that a blind person could find them.

5. Everyone loves a good slideshow (that’s why every site these days has one).

But don’t just use it to display pretty pictures – make it part of your marketing plan. Make it part of your HOOK* to immediately engage your visitors.

Get those things right on the front page and everything else is superfluous – put the extra information on other pages. Use your navigation effectively and your visitors can find it if they want to dig further.

With the advent of Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, there is the ability to create a multitude of cascading pages for your website so there is no excuse for not using this to your advantage.

Keep the front page of your small business site clean and simple using the five items above and monitor your Google Analytics. Done effectively, you will watch that bounce rate drop away as your prospective customers come and, most importantly, stay.

* the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

* K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Stupid

* a hook, which is a short phrase or jingle designed to entice a customer to purchase a product or sign up for a service.

Three Steps to help get your new website noticed.

After months of planning, preparation and development, your website “baby” is now taking its first faltering steps into the vastness of the World Wide Web. Like any proud parent wants of their children, you want the best for your website – you want it to go out and achieve to the best of its potential.

Get your new site noticedBut it can’t – not on its own. Not without help.

A successful website takes a whole load of effort, strategy and guidance to attain the lofty goals that you have set for it. It takes patience and time to hook into that target audience that is searching for your business. A newly launched website is just one single entity – floating in the vastness of the internet. A void that is likely filled with many similar websites, just like yours, all craving the attention of the same critical audience.

How are they going to find yours?

With the baby steps below, you can set your newly-launched business website on the right path and make it visible to the audience that is searching for what you have to offer.

Step 1 – Get Your Site listed with Google

This one is a must because Google won’t list your site automatically at launch. You (or your web developer) need to bring the new website to Google’s attention using one of the two following methods:

  1. Manually add the URL of the new site by visiting the Google Search Console https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en and submitting it via the “official” channels.
  2. A more cunning way to gain Google’s attention is to display a link to the website on another site that has already been indexed (visited) by the Googlebot. When the Bot next sweeps by for a visit, it will pick up the new link and, voila, you’ll be added to the index.

Be aware that listing on Google can take anywhere from 24 hours to four weeks but you can speed up the process with a little more exposure…

Step 2 – Engage in “Off Page” SEO

Off-page SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) refers to methods that you can use to promote your site outside the pages of your website. Two of the most popular methods are Link Building and Social Media Marketing.

Linking Building involves getting other websites to link to your site (these are known as inbound links). So long as these sites are of a high quality and their content is relevant to your site, Google smiles upon this method and its search algorithm may give your site a boost in the rankings.

Note that linking from any old site is not recommended and can have the opposite effect on the rankings – you can even get blacklisted if Google really doesn’t like what you have done.

Social Media Marketing is exactly as it sounds. Using the various social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc), promote and share the content of your site with your audience of followers. Each post/link to your site that is shared by this audience is seen favourably in the eyes of the GoogleBot.

Step 3 – On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the use of various tactics within the content of your website’s pages. This can include using key words that your audience may use as part of the text, ensuring that all images have an ALT tag attached and using internal/external links to establish connections with other content that the search engines may already know about.

If you are using WordPress as the framework for your site, install either the “Yoast SEO” or All-in-One SEO plugins and they will work through wizards to help set up your on-page SEO.

Conclusion

These three steps are only the first steps along path to gaining real traction with your website. Once the GoogleBot has found and ranked your small business website, you will need to monitor which tactics are working best for you. In addition, you must keep your content fresh and update to date and constantly monitor your website analytics. Know where your traffic is coming from, what pages they like to visit and what they use to find your website in the first place.

If you need assistance getting your site a little more Google-friendly, please get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design. We’ll take a look at your currently “set-up” and help you implement the changes needed to get the most out of your site.

How secure is your WordPress website?

Website SecurityIf your site has been built on the WordPress framework, you are in good company. With a calculated 25% of all websites built using this user-friendly CMS, WordPress is easily miles ahead of its competition. However, with this popularity comes an inherit danger – it is a regular target for hackers.

WordPress was born from an open-source project and remains free to everyone who wants to create a website. Open source means that the code that makes the whole system work is available on the internet with no restrictions. This factor is important in the whole WordPress “ecosystem” as it allows developers and coders to create the myriad of plugins and themes that make the CMS what is it.

Unfortunately, hackers can also look at the code and discover its weak spots, making it vulnerable to spamming and security breaches. For the small time user, this may never be a problem that presents itself. But if your site attracts the unwanted attention of a hacker, they can cause all kinds of problems for your small business website and its visitors.

To protect your site (big or small), there are some very simple measures that you can employ without the need for any programming knowledge (or outside help):

1. Update the WordPress Core.

To do this, access the Dashboard of your site. If a new (major) version of WordPress has been released, this information will be displayed on the main screen of the Dashboard with an UPDATE link. With the newer versions of WordPress, small incremental updates to are performed automatically.

2. Update the plugins that you are using with your site.

In the main menu of the Dashboard, under the Home button, an Updates options will appear when updates for your plugins are available. Click on it to access the Updates page and select the updates that you want to apply. At the same time, visit the plugins page of the Dashboard and delete any plugins that you aren’t using. Even though they aren’t being use, these deactivated plugins can still provide backdoor access to your system.

3. Use a secure password.

A brute force attack, where the login for a site is attacked with a systematic password hack, is hard to protect against but with a secure password (one that used no common words and a mix of symbols, letters, numbers), the hacker will have to work harder to penetrate your system. Also, try to limit the number of users that have access. If someone doesn’t need access and will not be updating the site, don’t give them access.

4. Install the WordFence plugin.

This free plugin has so many features that I can’t list them all here. For a very basic explanation, WordFence provides high-quality firewall and malware protection for your WordPress website and you should have it on your site. Setting this plugin up puts into place a huge roadblock to anyone or anything wanting to cause harm to your site. Get it here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/

All the above options are accessible through the Dashboard of your WordPress site but only if you have administrator access. If you log into your site and cannot see or perform the tasks listed, contact your website developer and request an upgrade of your user access.

There is nothing worse than trying to regain control of a severely hacked website however, if it does happen to you and the above steps do not reverse the damage to a perfect state, it is not the end of the world. The server on which your site resides should be* backed up on a regular basis and can be restored by your server provider* to a previous day/week for a small charge.

As always, however, a pinch of prevention is worth a full pound of cure.

  • If your web server provider does not backup at least three times a week, then it is imperative that you find a new provider. Security of your website is paramount.
  • A server provider such as Digital Pacific, NetRegistry, WebCentral, etc provides the space where your website lives. It is generally not the same as your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that connects your business to the internet.

Unsure about how to implement the security measures above, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design. We can undertake a no-obligation security audit of your site and let you know how we can help. 

WordPress 5.0 – Be Ready for a BIG Change

The WordPress framework, which is estimated to have been used to create over 30% of all websites on the internet, hasn’t changed a lot over the years.

WordPress 5.0Even since its invention as a blogging platform and it’s ascension to become the #1 Content Management System (CMS) in the world, the basics of running a site on WordPress has remained essentially the same.

With the release of WordPress 5.0, also known at “Gutenberg”, that is about to change.

Matt Mullenweg, the original developer of WordPress, and his team of loyal developers have recognised that the online world has changed immensely since WordPress 1.0 was launched and they are preparing to introduce a brand-new version featuring some of the biggest changes the CMS has ever seen.

What is Gutenberg?

Regular users of WordPress will be familiar with the visual editor shown below where all the editing for a site’s page takes places in the one “box”. Users add text, columns, images, tables and other standard features straight into this area. For more complex items, the current editor requires used of short codes and customised HTML to make things work.

The release of Gutenberg aims to make this process easier, especially for novice users of WordPress. The new editor “breaks” the site components in smaller blocks, with each fulfilling a different task.

The Gutenberg page editor has blocks pre-configured for text, images, columns and galleries as well as media options such as slideshows, video code and audio. Regular page items such as lists, buttons and subheadings are also included with their own blocks.

Although the changes may be a little daunting to some users, having tested the new layout here at Tropical Coast Web Design, we believe that, after the initial “jump”, the change is going to make everything a whole lot easier.

Will Gutenberg break my existing site?

In most cases, your old site will be fine. The new editor is being created to be backwards compatible however with the vast number of community plugins (which add extra functionality), there is bound to be some issues.

I’m still concerned – how can I check my site will be OK?

There are a few steps that you can take to ensure that your site is ready for Gutenberg:

  • Test your current site with the “Gutenberg” plugin. This adds the new editor to your site so you can see how it works and determine whether it affects how the site functions. Any problems – just deactivate the plugin!
  • Turn off Major Updates in your WordPress installation. This will prevent Gutenberg from loading automatically on launch day and you can upgrade to WordPress 5.0 when you are ready to do so.
  • Contact your Web Developer and see if your site is ready for the upgrade. In most cases, developers have already tested their WordPress sites against the new editor and can inform you of any issues that may arise.

If you have any concerns about your website and the new Gutenberg release, please get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design and we’d be happy to take a look for you. The testing we have undertaken with our own client’s websites has revealed no issues except for the short learning curve of the new page editor.
To help our clients with the switch, we are developing a brand-new Tutorial booklet which will demonstrate to how to use the Gutenberg with easy step-by-step instructions.

Note: Originally set to be released on the 19th November 2018, there is currently no firm date for the release of the Gutenberg update.

Tropical Coast Web Design