How to Protect Your Website & Brand from Hackers

Tough to admit as digital marketers, but our website was hacked a few years ago. It was frustrating, time-intensive to fix and mostly embarrassing.

We hung our heads for a bit, but then realised our experience could actually benefit others. We had taken our website security for granted but the process of restoring our online reputation painted a clear picture of what we, and other WordPress sites could do to strongly discourage future hacking attempts.

While some of the information below is unique to our WordPress security service it is a strong guide for anyone needing to  keep their online reputation safe.

WK-Wordpress-Security

 

 

Domain Ownership: How to Keep Your Domain in YOUR Name

Kicking off your first website or online business is a huge challenge. There are countless pitfalls to avoid, and plenty of chances to make a mistake. Thankfully, thousands of people have trodden that path before.

Learning from the mistakes of others is a clever move. There are a number of steps to securing the full rights to your own domain name and website, and we’ve broken it down right here.

The Dos of Domain Name Ownership

  • Choose your own domain name.

This comes with the heavy caveat that you do so with advice from an expert that doesn’t have a vested interest. If you know someone who works in search engine optimisation (SEO), ask them for assistance choosing a name. If you don’t, do your own research or find a cheap freelancer with the basic knowledge to help you out (consider a site like Fiverr.com).

  • Definitely ensure that your details are accurate and kept up to date.

There are plenty of horror stories of people who have paid for their domains for several years, then got a new credit card that cannot be charged. If your email address is still active, that’s fine – most providers will be more than happy to chase you for payment. However, if it’s not, you’re in trouble.

  • Set up auto-renew.

Set up your account to auto-renew if your finances aren’t too tight. That way, you can be sure to stay in business. Some agencies will take care of this for you if the domain is registered with their account.

The Don’ts of Domain Name Ownership

  • Don’t entrust your domain name to someone who doesn’t deserve that trust.

Sometimes it’s a great option to allow your web agency to handle the entire process, from purchasing the domain name, to building your site and handling the ongoing hosting. However, it’s important to maintain some security. Reputable agencies will always hand your domain name back when you choose to move on.

  • Where possible, own it yourself, under your own account.

Your website is your online presence, and your domain is the front door. Agencies come with an immense amount of useful expertise, and should certainly be trusted to manage your account. However, much like a real estate agent, its best if you retain the ownership rights to your own property.

  • Be wary of letting your domain expire.

If you can, pay for a couple of years upfront. Register with an email that you regularly check. There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing control of a domain that you’ve invested in for several years, and being forced to shell out thousands of dollars to a reseller or, worse, a competitor. This is especially relevant in Australia, where despite the existence of legal barriers to registering and owning domain names unrelated to your business, the practice of domain-camping is widespread.

Tips for a Great Domain Name

When choosing your domain name, you want to get it right the first time. Once your site is indexed, attracting traffic and earning backlinks, you certainly don’t want to have to start over and go through the messy business of redirects and lost site value.

One of the most important things you need to consider is SEO. While Google applies considerably less weight to domain names nowadays, it can still provide you a significant boost in the early stages of your site. Use keywords related to your industry, location or business name.

Avoid unnecessary characters in your domain name. In other words, don’t make the mistake of hyphenating your business name. Keep it simple, and related to your business.

Buy either a .com domain or a local country-level domain, such as .com.au. There are advantages to more local domain names, especially as Google continues its industry-leading drive to deliver the most relevant, local content to people using their search engine.

The Upshot

Your domain name is absolutely essential to your continued online presence. In order to maintain a continued online presence, keep the domain in your name or work with an agency that you trust. Agency expertise is valuable, but your property is your property. You don’t give your accountant your power of attorney, so don’t give your agency the right to use and resell your domain name. If things ever go pear-shaped, you’ll be glad everything is in your name.

Do You Really Need an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates can be difficult to wrap your head around. For some websites, they’re incredibly important. For others, not so much.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is essentially a guarantee that the website people are visiting is in fact secure. It’s a small file hosted on your web server that binds a cryptographic “key” to your business. When a person uses their browser to visit your site, it sends a request to connect. Your site will then respond with their SSL certificate, and the visitor’s browser will ensure that the SSL certificate is valid. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.

When you’re browsing online, you might notice that some sites’ addresses are http://, while others are https:// – the “s” means that the site has an SSL certificate. Some businesses obtain an Extended Validation SSL certificate, which, among other things, allows them to display their business name at the start of the address in most browsers. A good example of this is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, found at commbank.com.au.

Why are SSL Certificates used?

SSL certificates are usually employed on websites that require a secure connection. This can involve credit card transactions, or even situations where people may be required to log in for a particular reason. If your site does not have an SSL certificate, then the information that travels between it and users is very unprotected and able to be easily accessed by outside parties. This can be a major concern if users are entering credit card information or other personal data into your site.

The Benefits of an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate ensures that you and your clients’ sensitive information is protected while en route, via encryption. It also provides authentication for users, ensuring that their information is being sent to the correct server, rather than an intermediary or imposter who may be attempting to farm data.

There is also a trust element to SSL certificates. Users, whether consciously or subconsciously, have been shown to inherently trust sites that display the padlock symbol or green colour associated with SSL certificates. When your site is receiving thousands of hits and every conversion matters, an SSL certificate can certainly help to improve your conversion rates. You wouldn’t stay in a hotel with no doors any more than you would give your card details to an unsecured site.

Beyond that, there may be some search engine optimisation advantages to using an SSL certificate. Google announced in 2014 that it would start giving a minor ranking boost to sites that hold an SSL certificate. Google is committed to a secure internet, and while an SSL certificate only forms a small part of their overall ranking algorithm, every little bit can help.

The Disadvantages of an SSL Certificate

The disadvantages to having an SSL certificate are minor. The cost can be an obvious deterrent for many small businesses, particularly if they aren’t running an ecommerce store or don’t have a pressing need to protect customer data.

Another concern is performance, as the extra transmittance of data between browser and server can cause additional load. However, this is usually only a factor for websites with large traffic.

Do you REALLY need an SSL Certificate?

There is no law or “internet rule” that requires most websites to have an SSL certificate. However, if you’re engaged in online commerce or otherwise handling personal data, it is highly recommended. For most small brick and mortar businesses simply seeking to have an online presence, an SSL certificate is not a major concern.

If you’re considering getting an SSL certificate, do your research first. Ensure that you implement any required redirects, as well as updating links where required. You may also need to perform a “fetch as Google” via your webmaster tools to ensure that Google can still crawl all pages on your site.

At the end of the day, the decision comes down to the function of your website. If data is travelling between your website and the user, then you need an SSL. If not, then you’ll be just fine.

Artificial Intelligence on the web

Using artificial intelligence, with a complicated algorithm of logics and code, companies employing this method can create a website in minutes.  WIX claims they are testing the use of this software in their builds. Using this technology, WIX, like other DIY website builders, can save a great deal of time and money, but will the end results be what the client needs and likes?

 

Here’s how it works:

 

You’re asked a set of standard questions to determine the nature of your business and what kind of website you would need to build. This will determine the layout, design and content as well as overall branding that should work best for your situation. Neither you nor a team of web developers (actual people) need to code anything.  AI does it for you from design to organization and you can focus on what content you think will best grab your audience. If that feels like magic, it almost is.

 

Can a small business use it?

 

Yes, but probably through working with a bigger business like a WIX or GRID if and when they bring this technology to the public.  It’s a costly endeavor and not fully proven. There will be issues with using AI to create websites. The art of customizing a site that really reflects the personality of a business could be lost in this kind of programming not to mention a lot of programming jobs that pay the bills of human beings and their families but it could save time and money for the end user.

 

What are chat bots?

Chatbots are a hot new trend
Bots are simple artificial intelligence systems that you interact with via text. It can be something as simple as asking what the weather will be like in Portland Oregon (rainy, most likely) or more complicated like seeking advice on your internet connection issues.
A Bot might handle things that would usually require a phone call, web search, or mobile app. Things like banking, making reservations, movies times, games, can all be handled by a Bot.

 

Which chat bots actually learn from user interaction?

 

Bots with Machine Learning have an artificial brain. They understand natural language, not only their programmed commands. Every time they converse with actual people, they get “smarter”.

When they crash, they re-program and learn from their previous mistakes. This happens as they interact more and more with people. This is how they differ from normal computers that can only solve problems they are programmed to solve.  AI means artificial intelligence so Bots continue to learn and evolve.

 

What are the trends for 2017 that everyone can use?

 

AI will be a hot topic in the coming year. As we move into the new year and beyond, AI will provide new technology for the home, office, hospital and more. Perhaps the next time you go to your favorite restaurant, your order will be taken by a bot and their website will have been built by AI power.

SEO, so what?

 

 

Why does this work matter and what happens if you don’t do it?

SEO means: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), if you pause to think for a second it very quickly sinks in that SEO is a very sensible thing to do. Why wouldn’t you want your site to appear at the top of a search engine’s list of returned sites?

So, before we get into how SEO works it is going to be helpful to know how a search engine finds results. Search engines are answer machines: ask a question and it searches its index to find the most relevant answers. The search engine has compiled this index using a “web crawler”, a program that visits each page on the web and all of its links, which stores a copy of the page and its URL in the search engine’s index. If you can find the page listed on a search engine then a crawler has visited it. Now, the part where SEO comes in: a search engine uses an algorithm to rank results in order of relevance to your search. These algorithms look at different elements to decide which sites come at the top of the returned list. SEO ensures that your site contains all the elements that a search engine algorithm is looking for and gets ranked highly. For example:

Title Tags (or Title Elements): are the highlighted titles that a search engine result page (SERP) displays (on Google they are highlighted blue). These tags tell Google, other search engine the main description of your site or document. They are very important and optimizing them is often one of the first SEO tasks.
Meta Descriptions: appearing under the highlighted Title Tag on a SERP. Although Google’s algorithms do not take Meta descriptions into account, since 2009, to determine a sites relevance they are essential to encourage users to click on your link, rather than a competitors.
H1 Tags: stands for Heading One and is the first thing a search engine like Google will look at to establish the relevance of your site after the title tag. With an H1 tag you are essentially telling search engines that this text, or heading is the most crucial.
Image Alt Tags: labels for any images on your site or document and Google, and others, use Image Alt tags to determine what the image is but also if the surrounding information is relevant an useful. Clear tags are very important for SEO.
Internal Linking: when a Google crawler finds your site it will also have a look at any links to see their relevance. If the link structure is unclear then it is possible the crawler may not even know the links exist. Many experts believe internal linking has a strong impact on Google’s algorithm and a clear pyramid shaped internal linking structure is key.

By using SEO your site will immediately have gained an advantage over any non-optimised sites on the web; people are inherently lazy and are most likely to click on one of the top five results, rather than any others. More people than ever are using search engines and SEO is becoming more and more common and is essential if you want to generate traffic on your site. Without SEO you run the risk of your site being buried deep in the search engine’s index and rarely read.

What makes a great logo?

A great logo can provide your company with a boost but actually visualising an image that embodies your company and projects what you stand for isn’t easy. Creating it is even harder so this article seeks to help you understand what you need to consider during the logo design phase.

The five main principles of design are: simplicity, memorability, adaptability, uniqueness and colour scheme. When your logo is being designed make a checklist of these five things to measure how viable and appropriate your logo will be.

Simplicity and memorability

Great logos are memorable and easy to describe. Ask the next person you see to describe, not draw, these logos including the colour scheme: McDonald’s, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Nike, Adidas, Qantas and Vegemite. They’ll pretty much describe them to a T because those logos are simple and memorable.

Iconic brands like Starbucks are the exception to this which proves not all logos have to be overly simple but the easier your logo is to describe out loud the more eye-catching it will be in actuality.

Adaptability

Logos needs to be versatile so when designing a logo consider all of the mediums it will feature in. Detailed logos can lose a lot of its effectiveness when shrunk as they can if the colour is changed. Your logo is going to look different on a billboard than it will on a computer screen, in a magazine, on a business card or company stationary.

Uniqueness

They say there is nothing new under the sun but that isn’t an excuse for not even trying for some innovation. Copying logos or even taking heavy inspiration from a popular design isn’t a great idea as you risk looking cheap or being sued for plagiarism. Anyway, you want your logo to be about you, not a knocked off version of someone else.

Colour scheme

For branding experts it’s possible to identify patterns in logo colours that fit certain feelings and how they play a part in purchasing decisions and brand association. A study undertaken by the University of Winnipeg, Canada, found that almost 9 in 10 initial reactions to products and logos could be linked back to the colour.

The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science also found that purchasing decisions can be affected by how colours manipulate and influence brand perception.

Colours are considered to be indicators of the personality of a brand. There are 8 main colour schemes that companies use to convey their personality or message: monochrome, green, blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and combination.

What do the colours say?

Monochrome is favoured by companies like Apple, Nike, Mercedes, Adidas and Playboy. It is said to project balance, calmness, neutrality, sophistication and aspiration, especially with high-end products like you find with Apple and Mercedes.

Green is used for health, nature, peacefulness and growth. You’ll see it with brands like Land Rover who market their cars to rural consumers; food businesses like Tropicana and Whole Foods to enhance their healthy living credentials and Starbucks to imply fresh, natural ingredients.

Tech companies like Intel, Dell, IBM, HP, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress use blue to highlight their trustworthiness, dependability, competence and strength. It’s also favoured by conglomerates, popular car manufacturers and financial providers like American Express, JPMorgan, Ford, VW, GE and Walmart because they want to be seen as reliable and consistent.

Food and drink brands like Coca-Cola, KFC and Budweiser, who appeal to under-25s more, employ red as it is considered an exciting, bold, youthful colour. It also plays well with new technology like video-streaming on Netflix or YouTube.

Purple implies creativity, imagination and wisdom – perhaps that is why wizards are so often pictured wearing purple robes – but it also blend elements from blue and red. Cadbury’s is an example of this as it wants to be seen as exciting yet dependable whilst Hallmark wants to be seen as trustworthy and creative.

Companies who want to exude confidence and cheerfulness opt for Orange. Orange works well with children and is favoured by Fanta and Nickelodeon. It is also used as an accent by companies like Harley Davidson and Amazon.

Yellow exhibits optimism, clarity and warmth. McDonald’s, IKEA and Best Buy are all about clarity. You know exactly what you are going to get with them. SubWay is dominated by yellow for clarity but they also accent with green for the healthy food aspect and white for balance.

Combination has to be done really well because it’s easy to confuse your audience – notice how the main brands who use combination are technology/internet giants like Google, Microsoft and eBay.

Get designing

When it comes to matching your brand personality to a colour scheme, remember that there is no evidence to suggest one colour will be more compelling than another. How your logo interacts with the colours is more important that the colours itself. The relationship between colour and brand is steeped in the perception of appropriateness and therefore your logo could be completely transformed with a colour change.

The feeling your logo creates will play a huge role in the perception of your brand and the strength of its persuasion. For that reason you must ensure that first your brand is simple, memorable, adaptable and unique before settling on a colour scheme. Think about your company’s core values, aims, strengths and achievements. This is what your company is made of and should be the factors that shape your logo.

We recently updated our logo to reflect the growth of our business and have had amazing feedback both from our business partners and customers. If you’re looking for assistance in this arena, you can learn more about here design services here. If you’d like to discuss what you’re after in a new logo, you can also contact us and we’d be thrilled to help.

 

 

Hubspot & Canva – More Collaboration Please!

Attention Hubspot & Canva, please integrate more!

Hubspot, we see your Canva profile but take it further. Those awesome templates? Put them on Canva so we can use them directly in the app!

We love blogging about both of you and we really don’t want to use Powerpoint anymore!

So maybe you guys should go out for a long lunch to discuss details. Or just Snapchat/snapball some ideas together but it would be great if you could just slide those templates (especially those infographic ones) onto Canva for work, that is definitely upgrade-worthy.

Disclaimer – if this already happens then just tell us, but we think maybe it doesn’t.

XO everyone on the internet

Top 3 Marketing Resolutions for 2016

Why do we resolve to do things differently at the start of each year? Maybe your best, longest running resolutions have come at a time when no one was asking, or looking.

For 2016 we think the best way to resolve to do something better is to at least look at what other reputable sources recommend so you can decide for yourself.

Because we focus on getting the best online sales and marketing results for our clients we recommend these top three ideas from the great list built by Hubspot.

1. Get a mobile strategy

We are still amazed at the number of websites out there that are not built in mobile friendly way. In part of the western world more Google searches are being done on mobile than on desktop. That means the fresh young eyes and those young at heart that need big font are all looking for you on their phone!

PC and laptop design will always be important but if a site is not built to look good and be searchable on a mobile then Google/people will eventually switch off your business. This article here explains the mobile strategy basics.

2. Write something every day

Sounds airy fairy but writing something every day means you have a source of unique content to pull from regularly.

Why do you need content?

  • To show Google your website content is refreshed regularly
  • To get a chance at being an influencer on LinkedIn, allowing you to build your network
  • To keep your products and services fresh

Ok we aren’t perfect either and are always striving for better but we do think this one will lead to good things professionally and its all within your power. Find your ideal writing time to achieve writing every day.

3. Prioritise sleep!

We probably should have made this number one but so crazy important. If you need to break through and achieve your next level goals a consistent good night of sleep is key.

What we have learned is that a good night of sleep is individual so its worth figuring out what works for you – check out this article here on how to make your own personal sleep plan

Call them resolutions or just call them good ideas to start with in 2016, we think these are some of the best. We also think its best to keep a concise set of goals that you can focus on from week to week.

Good luck this year and we hope we cross paths with you!

What to do if your website provider is holding you for ransom

Just recently we spoke with a very successful entrepreneur who had their website taken down by an angry IT provider. As if managing your websites and all other online assets isn’t hard enough, when your provider is a bad apple you can feel powerless to stop the damage to your business reputation by not being online.

As a part of the IT community where this happens it makes us frustrated too, but there are ways you can protect yourself from this kind of disruption. Here are our top three suggestions:

Keep control of your domain

yourwebsiteaddress.com.au or .com should be under your control. You can share this with your providers but as long as you are the main point of contact for the domain registration then any funny business can still be reversed by you.

We hear stories time and again where someone claiming to be your best option starts off by offering to register your website domain name and then forcing you to purchase services you don’t need because they control your domain.

There are a number of cost effective domain registrars that allow you to setup your own registration. Just make sure once you have done this that you store the logins in a safe place to share with your trusted IT provider.

Ask your provider about how to move your website

If you have a great provider then there is no reason to move it however it’s important to ask the question and listen closely for the answer.

25% of all websites in the world are built on a WordPress content management system. This is an open source platform with developers & infrastructure aplenty. It should just be a matter of a small effort to provide the files to your new provider if that is what you need.

Most importantly, if they laugh nervously and try and avoid answering the question then this should be a warning flag. Business requirements change and your IT provider should be accommodating.

Make sure your provider is doing backups of your website

Most providers will have a service that backs up to a secure location regularly and this means that if the unforeseeable happens to your site and it goes offline that you can reclaim it from the recent past once you fix the problem.

This one does require a good relationship with your provider but in the scheme of things, another important question to ask.

Ultimately it comes down to whether your provider understands what can happen over time and in the context of a changing business environment. Importantly, its your website and you have the right to ask questions and make changes to your arrangement if you need to without fear of retribution.