When your website is hacked

It’s any website owner’s worst nightmare; someone has got into your website and hacked it. Not only does it leave you feeling stressed and upset, but it also means you have a whole lot of work to do to restore your website.

Don’t take it to heart; most of the time you’ll have been hacked by an irritating bot rather than a malicious person, your website was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of the ways that a hacker can get into your website include;

  • Guessing your password – change it often and make it hard to guess.
  • Using malware to capture your login credentials.
  • Finding a security vulnerability in software you’re using (more likely with an outdated CMS).
  • Hacking someone else’s site that’s on the same server as you.

The first thing to do is take your website offline while it is being fixed. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, ask your web host to help. On the subject of hosts; if you think you might have been hacked because of whom you share a host with, change providers and avoid cheap web hosts in future. They don’t always have up to date security practices and you might end up sharing a host with a troublemaker. Check for reviews when choosing a host and don’t just go with a good offer.

Scan your computers for viruses and malware to make sure they aren’t infected with anything nasty, and it goes without saying that you should also make sure you keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.

Get the experts in to rebuild your site, or if you can do it yourself, go ahead, and take a few tips on board to avoid the same thing happening again. Nothing is infallible but there are a few tips that you can use to make your site less hacker-friendly.

  • Firstly, make sure that you keep all your content management systems and plugins up to date, downloading the newest versions as soon as they are available.
  • Get used to checking the files on your server or cPanel – that way if one day there’s something unfamiliar there you’ll spot it straight away, hopefully before it has a chance to do too much damage.
  • Never ever give out your passwords. If someone gets hold of your login credentials, change them immediately.
  • Avoid using free CMS themes if you can – it’s so easy for a theme or plugin to be changed so that any website using it can be compromised and even used for illegal activities.
  • Google Webmaster Tools will alert you and possibly show a ‘This site may of been hacked warning’ in Google search results. You must deal with this in your Google account

Unfortunately, hackers aren’t going to go away, much as we’d all like them to, but if you can make life as hard for them as possible, they may well leave your site alone in the future.

Is Your Copy Working for You?

You might think that you have it all worked out with your SEO. You’ve read up on tags and metadata and spent hours going through and adding all the correct keywords where they are most needed.

Don’t sit back and assume that doing this is going to give you an automatic pass to the top of the Google rankings, though. There’s no denying that spending time on adding all of these extras will give your pages a boost, but it’s not the be all and end all when it comes to success in the search engines.

Google and metadata

Back in the ‘old days’ you could assume that when you wrote your metadata, it would automatically show up in the search engines. What you added in the meta description field was what showed up when people saw it in a search results page. However, there’s strong evidence that these days, Google may not even use metadata when it’s ranking a website.

The algorithms are sophisticated, and when it comes to finding the description for your site, and ranking it accordingly, Google isn’t so choosy. It can pick up any copy from your site and use it to calculate your worth in the rankings. So if you put hours of effort into creating the perfect description for your site in the metadata, but then pay less attention to the copy on the rest of the site, you could fall down.

Make every word count

The best way to create copy that will propel you higher in the list is by making every page on your website a great description of your business. Make everything you put on your website relevant, compelling and interesting for your potential and existing customers so that it doesn’t make any difference which random paragraph the Google algorithm decides to use to categorise you, it will be beneficial.

Top Tips

  • Don’t stop writing metadata – it’s thought that Google only changes them when it decides it needs more information. If there’s nothing in your meta data, it could choose something you really don’t want.

 

  • If you have a very large site and not enough manual hours to make unique description tags, you may want to think about leaving them out! SEOmers have removed description tags on a couple of large sites, it worked very well. Get advice before doing that!

 

  • Write unique descriptions for your pages and never duplicate your metadata. Make sure it always reflects the page content.

 

  • Carry on adding keywords to your articles – sentences with keywords in are more likely to get added to the page content. Just don’t over do it!

 

  • if you don’t want something showing in Google, it shouldn’t be on your website.

 

  • Write for people, then Google. Search engines don’t buy your services, people do!

 

  • Don’t write content for the sake of it

 

Just keep an eye on your page performance and keep your page copy regularly updated to ensure that your website doesn’t fall foul of a Google decision!

Why you need to find the right web developer for your business

Agency VS FreelancerChoosing a web developer can be one of the most important decisions for your business. The web developer is going to be tasked with creating the online face of your company, and his or her skills will make or break your ability to successfully interact with your customers online. The developer creates your online shop window – you’ll want to make it an impressive one!
Finding the perfect person for the job can be difficult. It’s not easy to find a really good developer or coder, who really ‘gets’ your business and is easy to work with. If the code is sloppy, it will impact on your website’s performance, so spending some time getting this important decision right will pay dividends for your business.

Agencies
Agencies are often the first port of call when you’re looking for a developer. The benefits of going to an agency can include a wider talent pool, and in larger agencies the bonus of being able to tie in web development with other services too.
This is all fantastic, but it will come at a cost – agencies, especially large digital media agencies, aren’t cheap. It can also be a hassle working with an agency, because you won’t always be able to speak to the right person, and as they will be working for more than one client at a time, it might take longer to get the work completed.

Freelancers
Freelance web developers are especially good if you’re looking for someone in a particular niche – you know they will be really good at one particular area of the job. The problem is, finding the right person in that niche. If they are absolutely fantastic at coding but so used to sitting behind a screen that their people skills are hopeless, working with an individual web developer can be very frustrating.
Money wise, a freelancer will usually be cheaper than an agency as they don’t have the overheads of a large digital media company, but on the downside, you might find your project is rushed – for a freelancer, time is money and so it’s in their interest to get the job done quickly. The only way around this is to hire on a day rate, but many freelancers don’t like working this way.
When you’re making the decision between freelancer and web design agency, you also need to think about the size of your business and whether you’re likely to need an ongoing service from them. If you’re a small business looking for a start-up website, the cost and flexibility of a freelancer may be right for you, but for larger companies or anyone looking for an integrated approach, the convenience of an agency might just swing the decision.

 

Is your social activity converting into sales?

social-media-failSocial media seems to have taken over our lives, and not just our social lives. We’re told that we can’t possibly operate without having a social media presence, and if we don’t have legions of ‘likes’ on Facebook than we may as well be in the last century because nobody will want to buy from us.

Is that really true though? And how can you make social media work for you instead of being just another chore that you’d rather not do?

The first thing you need to consider is whether your efforts on Facebook, Twitter or wherever are actually getting you any sales. If not – what’s the point? It doesn’t matter how many people like your business page if nobody clicks through to your website and buys anything.

Before you give in completely, make sure you’ve got to grips with your social media strategy. Have you got a target customer? If so, where do they hang out? Are they likely to be posting selfies on Instagram or chatting away on Twitter? There’s not much point focussing all of your efforts on one stream when in fact all the people you need to be connecting with are on another one.

Check out the competition, too. Look at the type of thing they post on Twitter or Facebook, see if they have a Google+ profile and study them. What are they doing to get interaction? Really spend time working out what works for your competitors and give that a try. If your competitors are also conspicuous by their absence, you can either assume that they didn’t get anywhere either, or decide to try and buck the trend.

If you are noticing sales coming through one platform but not the others, don’t think you have to conquer them all just because they are there. Focus on what’s already working and make it even better. If you’ve noticed that you’re building up a nice little community on Facebook, nurture it. Don’t drop the ball while you try and do the same on Twitter, because you’ll lose momentum. Stick with what’s working for you.

If nothing seems to be working and you haven’t noticed any benefit at all from your efforts on social media – why not just drop it for now? There are plenty of other ways that you could be working to build up your business and generate sales, we all survived without posting selfies and pithy quotes for each other’s amusement before Mark Zuckerberg took over the Internet, and you know – not everyone is actually on social media anyway!

How to spec out a website build for your business

eventplanner7You know that you want a website for your business, but have you actually given some thought to what you’d like the website to do? Interactive and multi-functional websites are the way forward, but with so many options, it can be difficult to decide what’s important to your business and what’s just for decoration.

Plan Ahead

Think about what you need the site to do for you right now, and what you’d like in the future. That way, you can make plans even if you don’t do everything at once. If you want to be able to sell products online, you need to make sure that your site is designed with that in mind, even if it’s not something you want to do straight away, otherwise you’ll end up having to design two sites instead of simply upgrading your existing one.

Communication

Blogs and news functions are important, whether you like the idea or not. It’s not just a case of showing off to people about your latest customer comments; keeping a website refreshed with up to date content is one of the best ways to keep Google on side, and an easy way to do that is by regularly updating your blog or news page.

Do you have a mailing list of clients that you would like to stay in touch with? A mailing list is a great way to do this. It’s relatively simple to integrate software into your website that will capture email addresses, and in which you can design email promotions, updates and newsletters (just make sure you have people’s permission before you add them to any mailing list manually; you don’t want to fall foul of the Data Protection Act or be accused of spamming people.)

Sales

If you’re selling your products on your website, think about the payment process – it’s best to make it as quick and simple as possible if you want people to keep coming back. Find software or a plug-in that will integrate easily into your site, and decide whether you want to accept PayPal (people love to be able to click and buy instead of typing in a card number every time.)

Think about how you want to promote your products, too. Will you be selling all of your products from one page, splitting them into different sections of the website, or giving each product a page of its own? Have you thought about adding in related products to a sales page, so that just before the customer buys the gadget, they are reminded to buy batteries, for example?

Maintenance

Do you plan to maintain your own website? If so, it could be worth considering a platform like WordPress for your site rather than a custom made CSS – an intuitive system that most people will be able to pick up and learn quickly is cost-effective as it needs very little training and anyone can then log in and edit/add a page if your designated staff member is off sick, leaves the company or just isn’t around.

 

Costs

Don’t just think about the set up costs of your site – yes, they are likely to be your biggest investment, but you also need to consider running costs, so look into the prices for hosting the site, how much it costs for email, newsletter plug-ins, payment platforms…these things all add up and while they are all necessary, you do need to factor these costs in for the future.

A little planning now will make all the difference when your site is up and running.

 

What are Google Penguin and Panda?

No, they aren’t the illustrations you see when you go onto the Google page, although they’d make pretty good cartoons. In a web context, Google Penguin and Panda are updates to the algorithms that Google uses to decide whether your site is worthy of a high ranking or should be relegated to the lower echelons where nobody but the most dedicated surfers will ever see it.

You don’t want to be there.

The latest Panda update was launched in October, and was designed to improve user experience by weeding out poor quality web content, keeping the high quality websites at the top of the coveted Google search rankings

Penguin is aimed more at punishing the spammy websites whose SEO managers (or designers) use dubious techniques to try and climb the search rankings. It was originally launched in 2012, and brought in to attempt to reduce the number of sites that violate Google’s guidelines, using sneaky techniques like Black Hatting which manipulate searches by adding dodgy links and repetitive words and phrases to a website.

The techniques have been successful – you won’t see so many sites with terrible content, stuffed with repetitive keywords anymore, and any SEO expert worth their title knows that not only does overuse of keywords sound terrible; it’s now ineffective as an SEO tool too!

Clearly, you won’t need to worry about Penguin updates if you have an expert in charge of your SEO – SEO experts will avoid using any underhand methods to try and confuse searches into promoting your pages.  There’s another planned update to Penguin, which rumour has it is fairly imminent, so make sure that you have your SEO expert on hand to check whether this has any effect on your own web traffic, and be ready to make any changes that are necessary.

Keeping your content fresh, relevant and top quality is the best way to avoid your site disappearing into obscurity after another Panda update.  We probably don’t need to say this, but don’t ever be tempted to copy and paste any of your web copy from another site, ether, as that’s an instant loss of points from Google. Add new, original content as often as possible.

To make sure that you don’t fall foul of any updates in the future, get an SEO expert on the case!

How to deal with negative reviews

You SuckIt happens to all businesses at some point – the negative review. We’ve all been there; the first thing you want to do when you spot that unfair review is write a ten point essay on why your customer service is, in fact, the best in the business, and why the reviewer doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about.

Unfortunately, that’s the sort of response that will end up going viral and making a laughing stock of your business. Before you do anything, take a deep breath, make a cup of tea, and give yourself a little time to take in what’s been said.

Do not, under any circumstances, get abusive towards your reviewer, even if they’ve been incredibly rude about you. Is the complaint reasonable, are there any aspects of it that do ring true, and where you could have done better? It’s a wise move to look into anything that’s been said before a full response is made.

Meanwhile, if the review isn’t abusive or defamatory, don’t be tempted to delete it. Just grit your teeth and write something along the lines of;

Thank you for your valued feedback. We are looking the issues you have raised and will respond as soon as we can.”

Make sure that you do follow the complaint up, and make sure people who see the review KNOW that you’ve followed it up, too.

Don’t be tempted just to ignore anything you don’t like the sound of. In some cases, a complaint can be the wakeup call you need in order to improve aspects of your service or communication. If you’ve sold a faulty product or provided a less than perfect service, the reviewer may have legal rights to redress, so it’s a good idea to publicly offer a solution or invite them to contact you in private to help resolve their problem.

If potential customers see that you can handle complaints and bad reviews in a mature way, even though you actually want to stamp your feet and sulk, it looks much better than if you leave bad reviews unaddressed, delete them or respond in anger. Keep calm at all times.

If the review is abusive, defamatory or threatening, of course you are within your rights to ask to have it removed or remove it yourself. Never retaliate, simply delete the comments and if there is any truth to any of their complaints, ask for them to contact you privately, explaining that you’ve had to remove their comment but you would like to help.

Get involved with your website

A website is a must-have for all businesses, but with interactive being the buzz word for online presence right now, just setting up a static site and ignoring it isn’t enough anymore. You need to invest time and effort into your site’s performance if you want to make a website work to its full potential for your business.

Firstly, you need to know how well you’re doing, who is looking at your site, where they go, how long they stay…all the statistics that you can find out from good old Google analytics. They sound scary but once you’ve worked out how to use them, they are an absolute bonus for any business, because you’ll be able to work out where most of your traffic comes from and either target that audience more, or look at ways to encourage your preferred audience to click through.

Once you’ve got the cold hard figures, you can ask for feedback from the people who use the site. You’ll have to make this easy for them, and probably offer an incentive such as a freebie or an entry into a competition, because most people are busy and can’t be bothered to leave feedback unless they are complaining! Ask people for their thoughts about the site, try a bullet point questionnaire that takes a few minutes and covers things like ease of use, accessibility, interesting information, and whatever else you need to find out. Asking people what they’d like to see on the site in the future is another good way to target the site to its audience.

Use your results and the Google analytics to build a profile of your average visitor, and make the site something they will want to keep coming back to. How old are your visitors, where are they from, what do they search for and ultimately buy? Armed with that information, you can give them more of what they like and keep them coming back.

Check out your social media – can people link through to your business social media accounts from the site? Have you made it easy for people to follow you, and can they find you easily on Twitter or Facebook?

Another major part of keeping your website relevant is making sure that the information is up to date at all times. It’s not just a Google search thing (although Google does favour sites that contain regularly updated content) it’s common sense. Would you bookmark a website whose last blog entry was six months ago and whose news section was congratulating Kate and William on the birth of Prince George?

Most of these things don’t take long to do, and can make a real difference.

What SEO really is

What is SEO?When you hear ‘SEO’ does it conjure up the thought of keywords, metatags and a desperate attempt to climb your way up the rankings in Google? Well, think again – SEO or Search Engine Optimisation isn’t just a techie buzzword; it’s an important part of any business in the 21st century with an online presence.

One of the major roles of SEO is that it helps to promote your brand, what you stand for, and the people behind it. Think of it more as a way of getting people’s attention, you’re using techniques to bring your business to the attention of the people who need it, and at the same time, giving your brand authority through good quality content and links to other people.

SEO is a way of converting interest and clicks on your website into solid sales – making you more visible so that whether the person who’s looking for your services has used them before, or is just browsing, you’ll pop up in their searches and keep their attention, leading them to buy from you instead of a competitor.

SEO gets you noticed as a business owner. To get to the top of Google, you have to make sure that the clever little algorithms behind it have enough information about you and your business to make them think you’re the best person at what you do. It’s not about stuffing your home page full of meaningless, repetitive keywords; it’s about forging connections, building a reputation and showing up as an expert or trusted person in your field.

SEO can help you plan out the future of your website. It gives you the tools to tweak and adapt your site to appeal to the very people you want to buy things from you. It’s your online shop window, like a designer shoe shop is built to appeal to people with a lot of money and a liking for spending it on uncomfortable but beautiful shoes, using SEO effectively can help you target people who are looking for what you’re selling; and inspire them to buy it from you.

Using SEO, you can also keep a close eye on what your competitors are up to. It’s a constant race to stay ahead of the game, so use any help you can get from SEO, and you can potentially keep an eye on things like who your competitors are linking from and to; check out their use of headers and tags, and more.

SEO has come a long way since the early days of Google and online searches; make it work for you.