When To Optimize a Website

I often get asked when the best time is to optimize a website. Watch my latest video and find out when to bring in an SEO expert and why this matters so much.

Care and Maintenance of Your New WordPress Website

Congratulations, you have a brand spanking new WordPress website. It’s shiny and optimized and you’re raring to move on to the next item on your small business’s to do list.

Hold on a minute there.20160409_123435 (1)

A website, just like a car, needs a little tender loving care from time to time to keep it in running order. You can’t forget about it, leave it running and expect it to keep working smoothly. It won’t. Just like a car, if you neglect your website and fail to maintain it regularly (give it some fresh oil to
continue the car analogy!), it will eventually break down and stop working, or worse it will get hacked.

Here’s a short checklist to help you to properly maintain your WordPress website. Doing this will take you less than an hour and if you do it once a month your website should run smoothly. Best to do this in order too – in case something goes wrong!

  1. Change your passwords regularly. WordPress allows you to do this really easily in the ‘Users’ section of the left hand tools bar  – it even helps you to generate a crazy passwords too (or you can use this). Passwords should have CAPS, lowercase, numb3rs symbol$ and it should be long (about 12 – 14 characters).
  2. Before you do anything else, take a backup – your developer should have added a plugin to make it easy for you to run backups of your site. We use UpdraftPlus for this because it makes it really easy for you to restore your site should anything go wrong in steps 3 to 5. It’s a good idea to run your backup once a month (or more if your site changes regularly). External backups are best – you can set this up via email, Dropbox and lots of other options. You can also set up backups to run automatically too. Once complete, download the backup log.
  3. Next update your plugins. If any new versions of the plugins your site uses are available you will see a little symbol like this updates at the very top on the left hand side of your screen. Click on it to see the updates required. Update them one by one by selecting the plugins and clicking on the update plugins button. After each update go to your website and check that everything works as it should. Sometimes plugin updates aren’t compatible with other plugins, your theme or with new versions of WordPress, and they might knock things out. In the event that this happens then you can restore the site from your last backup.
  4. Update your version of WordPress – this often happens automatically but if not, then do it manually by clicking to update WordPress in your updates screen.
  5.  Update your theme – but be extra careful with this one. Ask your developer first if they customized the theme. If they have then updating the theme might knock out any customization that has been done to your site.

And you are done! Hopefully we’ve outlined how you can easily update and maintain your WordPress site but if this seems too technical for you, contact your web developer or give us a shout – we’d be happy to help.





How Secure is WordPress Anyway?

We’ve been building and maintaining WordPress websites for over a decade and as the platform has evolved and grown, the question ‘how secure is WordPress anyway?’ is one that keeps coming up. There are over 75 million websites around the world running on WordPress including many sites of prominent organisations like Best Buy, Xerox, Ford and Marks and Spencer. With so many sites running on this environment of course there will be hacks and security concerns – we hear about more issues because it’s such a widely used platform.

Several years ago the Out-Smarts site was hacked and since then we’ve put a process in place that mitigates the risk – our site has not been hacked since. We’ve also put in place an action list for clients to follow to maintain the security of their sites and for those clients following this they haven’t had their sites hacked either.

How Secure is WordPress?

The answer is that it is as secure any other development environment. It’s not the vulnerability of WordPress that is an issue, it’s the processes that are put in place (or lack of) that make a site attractive to hackers.

Make your WordPress Website more Secure

Here’s the process and recommendations that we use to make our website and our client’s websites safe from hackers. If you use these too, you will be able to sleep better at night without worrying about your site being hacked!

1. Never use ‘admin’ as a username.
2. Always use a convoluted password with upper and lower case, symbols, number et al (WordPress makes it easy for you to generate this).how secure is wordpress
3. Change your password often.
4. Install Sucuri or SiteLock to monitor your site and to help you get it back up and running really quickly should anything untoward happen.
5. Keep your theme up to date.
6. Ensure you are using the latest version of WordPress
7. Make sure your site is running the most up to date plugins
8. Limit login attempts – there a re several great plugins for this.
9. Run regular external backups.

There are other more technical actions you can take to make sure your WordPress site stays safe but these are things you can easily do yourself. WordPress is a great platform, it’s versatile and robust. It’s our platform of choice when designing and building new sites for clients and if you follow these processes the likelihood that your site gets hacked is very small.

This post answers the question how secure is WordPress. If you would like to learn more, here are some related articles:

Protect Yourself & Your Site With Strong Passwords
Change your WordPress Passwords
Dealing with Hackers and Spammers
How to Protect Yourself on Facebook
Think it’s a good idea to build your own website? Here’s why you should think again.

Scottish Social Media Marketing Show Review

This week I attended my first social media event in my native land – the Scottish Social Media  and Marketing Show in Edinburgh. The show, aimed at small Scottish Social Media Marketing Showbusinesses in Scotland, was right up my alley. It was hosted by Hashtag Events and featured 3 breakout sessions with 3 separate options for talks, as well as an exhibitors centre showcasing marketing, print and networking companies.

I couldn’t attend all of the breakouts and I am sure I missed some great sessions. Here are my key takeaways from the event and the talks I did see:

1. I was at the conference hoping to see how small businesses in Scotland use social media in comparison to Canada. Turns out they are using them in exactly the same way. Social media adoption by small businesses in Scotland is a little behind Canada from what I can tell, and there’s the same confusion over which tools to use and how to use them strategically.

2. The first session I attended was Liz Melville’s talk on How to Spend Less Time on Social Media and Get Better results. Her advice – get clarity on who your clients are, align your products and services to them and use automation to fill your sales funnel even when you’re not working.

3. The next session presented by Colin McKeand focused on networking. Everyone had the chance to do their 1 minute elevator pitch. Key takeaway was that a connection is nothing without a follow up.

4. David Hood‘s session was the next one I attended. It was called Stop the Noise: Applying Insight and Intelligence for Competitive Advantage. Ironically, I was at the back of the room and couldn’t really hear for the noise from the exhibitor area but I could tell he was questioning and counter balancing some of the norms of social media and had a great wry sense of humor and directness. Wish I had had a better seat for this one…

5. The final session I attended was the one I found most beneficial, by Steven Sefton who had some killer ideas on how to improve your website. They included:

  • ditching the sliders on your site (they don’t work!),
  • using copy that is about your prospective customer and not about you,
  • having effective call to actions
  • really great content marketing that your audience can relate to and that gets shared.

All in all it was a day well spent. Thanks to all of the speakers and to the hosts!

Search Engine Optimization – Small Business SEO Checklist

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) isn’t something that should happen as an afterthought. If you are planning a blog post, a new page on your small business website or other content such as an event, new product or service, it is important to consider SEO right at the start. If you do so then your post, page or listing will be more relevant, in demand and it will get more traffic, visitors and shares. What is there to lose? Here’s a Small Business SEO Checklist to make this easy for you and to help you stay on track with some of the simple SEO tactics that can help your post, page or listing get found:

Small Business SEO Checklist

1. First determine what your blog post is going to be about and draft some pertinent keywords – i.e. words that your clients might use to search for your content and that describe what your post is all about. Go with your gut instinct and think about the words your customers use when asking you about this topic.Google suggestions - Small Business SEO Checklist

2. Use Google Trends to determine whether people are searching for these words or phrases. Google suggestions is also a great way to determine if this is a good topic, just start entering your word or phrase in Google and see how it completes it in the search dropdown that shows up. The suggestions that show up first are the most popular searches relating to your keyword. If you want to go really deep you can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool to determine the competition and value of your intended words or phrases (which isn’t ideal as it’s based on data from paid advertising and not overall search), or even better, a tool like Keyword Explorer from MOZ.

Another even easier way to determine the competition for a key word / phrase is to Google it and see how many results there are.

Your goal in this step is to determine phrases or words that have a high volume but low competition.

3. After doing the research in 2 above, determine a) your focus keyword / phrase, and b) secondary keywords that apply (use these in the text when writing your content). Craft your text and content around these.

4. To make it more likely that your page or post will be found when people search for it, the word / phrase that you have identified as your focus keyword / phrase should be used in the:

  • Title of your post
  • META title
  • META Description
  • Focus keyword
  • Alt Tags of your images
  • Text of your page – but not repetitively – you are writing for people not search engines! A good rule of thumb is 3 – 6 times for a 300 – 600 word post or page
  • In your headers and subheadings
  • URL

Yoast is a great tool to help you with this, if you are using WordPress I highly recommend it.

5. The META on your site might be the first impression anyone sees of your small business so take a little extra time to craft it well. When entering your META follow the META tag rules below- if you are using Yoast this plugin will help you with this:

Your META title (in purple in the image below) should be less than 56 characters, META description (below the URL in grey on the below)  should be less than 156 and it should compel people to click.

META Tags - Small Business SEO Checklist

The focus keyword phrase we’ve used in this post is Small Business SEO Checklist FYI!

SEO is Important

Small Business SEO ChecklistI meet a lot of people who think SEO is too technical so they simply avoid doing it but it doesn’t have to be and ignoring means you are losing out on lots of potential visits and shares. I hope that this simple Small Business SEO Checklist will encourage you to add SEO to your posts and pages. Doing so could be huge for your site and your business!

Related posts:

What is SEO

The importance of optimizing your website