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Google hates my website!

How to get some “love” from the search giant…

Getting a website for your business is only part of the challenge in creating an online presence. But what if nobody is finding that website? No visitors – no point having a site in the first place. Google is the king when it comes to online search and if your site isn’t visible in their search rankings, then your site is invisible.

But what if you have submitted your site to Google, and nothing happens? Or, just as bad, what if your website is appearing on page 22 of search results? No-one is going to find you.

Technically, despite the title of this blog, Google can’t hate your website. It may not like some of your practices, the content you are delivering or how you are presenting your information to your visitors. These are some of the factors that can lead to poor search rankings.

But luckily, there are some simple measures that you can apply to your site to get some of that Google “love”:

1. Use keywords intelligently

Keywords have always been regarded as the main part of Google’s search algorithm*. Pre-2010 websites used to be “stuffed” with keywords to get a good result in search listings.

Try that now and you may find your site blacklisted. In 2019, Google likes the keywords to be integrated with the content that it represents.

TIP: To implement keywords on your site:
– Write down a list of the terms that people may use to find what you are offering.
– Simply insert those terms into the relevant parts of your website’s text. Ensure that the content still reads correctly and don’t try to “squeeze” every single term onto every single page.

2. Ensure your site is “mobile friendly”

If your site isn’t displaying properly on a mobile device then you are not only missing out on site visitors, you are also risking a penalty from Google.
Back in 2015, Google stated that “that comparable mobile sites will rank higher than non-mobile friendly sites in mobile search results.”

TIP: Don’t lost position – if your site is not mobile, get in touch with your web developer today.

3. Create a Site Map

Google uses web crawlers known as Googlebots to “crawl” through websites across the internet and these bots love a bit of direction. That is why having a site map integrated into your website is very important.

This map tells the bot how to intelligently move through your site. It also tells the search engine where the content is on your site and when it was last updated.
TIP: If your site is built on WordPress (all ours are), you can easily add a site map with a plugin like Google XML Sitemaps.

4. Deliver content with value

Google doesn’t actually read the content of your website. It observes the number of people that are searching for you, whether they go to your site, how long they stay, whether they dig into your site, etc.

Using this information, Google surmises whether your site visitors are finding what they are looking for and if it is worth viewing.

TIP: Read through your site content and make sure it is all “on point”. If it doesn’t benefit your site visitor, then it may not be benefiting you through Google.

5. Secure your site

Another area where Google enforcing change is the security of websites across the internet. An insecure site is a prime target for hackers and Google doesn’t want to lead any of its users into a dangerous site.

TIP: All sites must have a security certificate (SSL) installed at the server level to keep Google happy. This encrypts data traveling between the server and your visitor’s computer/device. To show site visitors that your site is secure, a security certificate displays a small padlock in the address bar of all browsers and adds https:// to the start of the web address.

Conclusion

If your business needs any assistance with implementing the various tips above to your website, please get in touch with the team at Tropical Coast Web Design. We’d be happy to help you get some Google love…

* The Google search algorithm is known as PageRank (named after Larry Page – one of the founders of Google). It is used by Google Search to rank web pages in their search engine results.

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.

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