WordPress Security Best Practices to keep your website safe

By Published 31 July 2014

Owning a website can be a lot of fun and challenging too.  It can bring you great business but it can also be a big headache when things don’t quite go right.  Like being hacked for instance. When this happens you feel like your world is falling apart because your website (and in some cases your business) has disappeared in a flash.  How dare these young whippersnappers from the other side of the world attack your website!

First things first – keep calm and carry on.

All these things can be resolved and the website that you’ve so lovingly worked on will return. However what I’m sure you don’t need or have any time for is any of this hassle.

So wouldn’t it be good to try and prevent the hassle factor in the first place?

If like a lot of business owners you have a website in WordPress, then it’s good to be aware of how to minimise the risk of being hacked.  WordPress has had some bad press of late, however in my humble opinion I believe that WordPress is no more at risk to hackers than any other web developed software.

As any half-decent hacker knows, the human element of security is usually the weakest link in the chain. (The human brain likes routines, patterns, and comfort zones; and hackers exploit this with glee!).  This can be any number of things including:

  1. Weak usernames/passwords
  2. Software not regularly updated
  3. Plugins not updated

WordPress, too popular for its own good?

One of the reasons I believe that WordPress gets bad press for being more vulnerable to hackers is because of its popularity (22% of the websites on the internet now use WordPress, including big companies and celebrities eg New Yorker , Stephen Fry, JayZ), and not because of insecurities within the software itself.  The more popular something is, the more it becomes a target.

It’s used by developers, freelancers and newbies who of course don’t fully understand WordPress best practice. Having people with different levels of skill inevitably can potentially cause weaknesses within the site.  So when an inexperienced person downloads WordPress for the first time they are probably not following best practices.

WordPress Best Practice

So once you have your lovely new WordPress website, it’s incredibly important to look after it, a bit like a child or a small animal. They need love and attention on a regular basis to flourish – not just once a year at Christmas!

Keep your WordPress updated.  WordPress doesn’t update the core very often.  This is important for your developers to do, as updates can sometimes break things.

Keep all your plugins updated. Plugins are one of the most vulnerable parts of WordPress, not only to external hackers, but to malicious or greedy programmers. Only use reputable plugins, it’s important to make sure these plugins are kept updated just in case a vulnerability is being addressed in the update. Again, it’s important for your developer to do this, as updates can sometimes break things.

Monitor the server log files. This might be seen as unimportant, but unless the files are monitored something could be suspicious in the server logs which will give you the details of everything that has hit your site, human or robot, and when and from what IP address. This can give great information, so it’s good to keep an eye on it from time to time.

Monitor WP access. This plugin monitors the details of logins to your site.  This will give you a record of who logs in to your website, and when. It will give you an insight into unwanted and unforeseen logins.

Monitor for file changes. A premium plugin can be installed that will send an email whenever your WordPress files are changed. This can be an early-warning system for a hack, and is worth the investment. It also allows you to roll back changes if needed.

Personal Recommendation, from experience

Personally, I’m sure you would much rather spend your time in (or on) your business than messing around with the database side of WordPress. Which is why my personal recommendation is to hire professionals!

We’ve helped out many businesses over the years with unhacking their websites so it makes sense to pass this responsibility to people who have experience and who know what they’re doing.  We now offer monthly security packages to give peace of mind to cover this.

Sure, there is a cost to this, but if that means you never have to deal with being hacked (ever) again then all is good. Plus having a fast (and secure) site allows you to do more business with greater peace of mind.

Email marketing – why you can’t afford NOT to do it.

By Published 27 July 2014

In a nutshell – email marketing presents more opportunities for your business…

…and can drive better returns on investment when you compare it to other forms of media, so why wouldn’t you actively pursue it? With strong messaging and a well thought out and targeted email marketing, your business can create deeper relationships with a wider audience more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing or advertising.

Let’s look at the reasons why…

Email marketing is targeted and results are in real-time

Gone were the days when you launch a new product or service and release it to the general public via a newspaper, magazine or postcode mail drop, and you have to just sit back and wait patiently for the phone to ring, or for the redeemed coupon to be returned to store, in order for you to gather the success of your campaign.

Email marketing allows you to segment your contacts based on their lead status, demographics, location, interests, or date of birth if you so wish. Not only does this ensure that your audience receives content suited specifically to his/her needs, but from the moment you send out your first email, you can get real-time results on how people are interacting and responding to that messaging.

Therefore, by targeting and reacting to your marketing efforts faster and more succinctly, you are far more likely to increase the loyalty of your customers and gain better conversion rates from your leads.

Email marketing gives you the opportunity to segment your data

So we’ve talked about targeting your email campaign by segmenting your data – well what if all you have is a database of contacts that you aren’t very familiar with i.e you just have a list of names and email addresses?

No problem! Not only can every link and action point within your email be tracked and recorded, but in some of the more sophisticated email marketing platforms, there is the potential for your contacts to be segmented as a result of their activity within the email.

For example; if you are sending out an email about Autumn Fashions which features several items and styles of clothing and apparel for men and women, what you can do is to get the system to take actions such as, if ‘Sally’ shows her interest to be beret hats, when she clicks on that link Sally will automatically be added to a new contacts list that you can later market more specifically too such as a feature on hats and scarves. However because ‘Joe’ didn’t react to this link, you have the option of whether to send it to him or not.

Email marketing increases brand awareness

Almost everyone checks their email at least once a day so there is a great opportunity there to make an impact in the minds of your consumers. With each email sent, consumers are exposed to your business and your brand and with good planning, design and targeted content, your emails will consistently build value. Plus, in doing so, you stay top-of-mind with your audience, meaning when next a customer needs products or services, your business stands a much better chance being there ‘go-to’ provider.

Email marketing is easily shareable

There are few forms of marketing that are as easy and enticing for the reader to share with their friends and counterparts. By a simple click of the ‘forward’, ‘share’ or ‘like’ buttons, the news of your offer gets quickly spread to a wider audience.
Do email marketing well and you will have created more exposure and credibility for your brand via your best brand ambassadors – your customers – which is in essence, the best form of marketing you can hope to have.

Email marketing is interactive and measurable

Getting good performance indicators and analytics from your marketing is a vital piece of the strategic planning puzzle. With the more traditional channels of marketing, measuring the results of a campaign can often be a little ambiguous.

Beyond the obvious numbers and percentages of ‘open’ and ‘click through’ rates that you can track via email marketing, the ultimate reward for your efforts will be that your business will learn some potentially very powerful customer insights based on their behaviour.

Email marketing is cost effective

The most costly aspect of email marketing is likely to be your time! The more time you can spend planning the strategy around the email campaign and setting up any automation you want it to handle, the better the overall success of your endeavours will be. If you are a high-fashion brand then yes, you are likely to incur the fees of a photographer and a designer each time you send out a mailing. However if you are a small business, email marketing will likely to be the most cost-effective form of advertising you can buy!

If you need help with your email marketing, find out how we can help here.

WordCamp Bournemouth, a personal journey with WordPress

By Published 16 July 2014

WordCamp Bournemouth

WordPress, an open source platform used for building dynamic websites, continues to steadily grow throughout the creative design and development industry and it is now one of the leading platforms and platform of choice for many agencies.   As a result the WordPress community has now evolved and groups of people who use WordPress on a daily basis gather, meet up and discuss and share their skills, experiences, knowledge, best plugins and best practice at regular meetings up and down the country (as well as all across the world).

These meetings are called WordCamps. Read the rest of this entry »

How to understand the basics before you engage a web designer

By Published 8 July 2014

Web design user experienceBusiness owners face a constant learning curve with technology in today’s world.  It’s not enough just being a business leader, it’s now more important than ever to have a good understanding of the social media landscape that surrounds the ever growing opportunities – to reach out and gain new clients.  And the message is clear that if you don’t jump on board this ship, it will continue to sail without you.

So when it comes to your web presence, how far should you go to understand the technology that builds your website?

I’ve often had conversations with business owners about their website and explained to them about “platform”, “WordPress”, “Custom CMS”, even email marketing, greeted with the response “… so where does that email go to?” It can be incredibly confusing if you’re not familiar with the terminology.  I often find myself repeating what I’m saying – a lot, and explaining it in ways to help make it easier to understand.

If you plan to invest in the re-development of your website in the near future, then I believe it’s important to understand some of the basics in order to know what you’re asking for.  This will be an investment for the future, so in order to compare “apples with apples” so to speak it’s good to know what you’re asking for in the first place.

So let’s take a look at some of the basic processes that are involved in building a new website:

Wireframe

A wire frame is simply a blank canvas laying out boxes to denote where you want different content and images to appear.  The layout is incredibly important as this will dictate how the development will progress.

Design

The Photoshop (PSD) design does not just include where the punchy images will go, it also includes designs for:  Text colour; Font; background colours; Heading styles and sizes (H1, H2 etc); link colours; layout.

Also, not all pages will have the same design layout.  For instance the Homepage of a website will always be different to the content pages, which will always be different to the blog page.  So layouts will need to be designed for each of these pages.

UX (User Experience)

One of the most important aspects of design in today’s web world is designing from the user’s point of view. Keeping the design clean, easy to read, easy to navigate and making sure most of all that the user experience is a good one.  Ultimately we want users to come back and re-visit the site and recommend to others.  So the UX is the most important aspect of design.

Platform

The “platform” is the software that is used for developing your website. Fewer and fewer websites now are built without using software in some form or other.  The reason for this is so that it makes it easy for the owner to update the content themselves, rather than having to go back to their web designer all the time.

Now there are a number of different platforms available that are “open source”. Open source is when software has been developed by a community and is therefore freely available to download onto the server where the website will be hosted.  Some of the most popular platforms that are used by web designers today are:   WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento.  There are of course many others however these are the most popular.

Development

So now a wireframe has been created, and a design has been agreed this now needs to be converted into a real, live website!   This involves development work (HTML5, CSS, Java, PHP.. etc). In other words the language that programmers develop code in to make it look and do all the things you want it to do.  Even with the skill and expertise required, sometimes bugs can be found that need to be fixed and all this takes a fair amount of time.

Once the development has been completed then it needs to be tested. It’s important that your new website works across all the latest browsers, and is viewable on mobile devices.  We have to check all this before we can agree that the site is ready to go live.

Value for money

So in summary, when you receive a quote for your new website that may be a little higher than you thought, there will be good reason for it.  If you follow due diligence and get 3 or 4 quotes from different web design companies, then make sure they are “like for like” in order to compare prices.

You will probably find that each web company may have a different approach and use different software which makes it very difficult to compare one against the other.

If you understand what you want and what you are getting, it makes it easier to make that very important decision.

Has SEO outgrown its acronym?

By Published 20 June 2014

We have now moved into a period of time when the good people at Google and the other search engine providers; are focused more than ever before on the relevant results returned by search engines following searches conducted by human beings.

Before we put the flags out let’s take a quick look at how this has happened. You have no doubt heard the phrase “I will look it up on the internet!” or “I’ll do a search!” The first statement is false! Without some form of index it would be impossible to find anything on the internet. For those of a certain age you may remember names like Excite an early web search established in 1993, or LookSmart, or how about Altavista? These were all early developers of what we now call Search Engines!

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Where’s your content? What’s your excuse?

By Published 18 June 2014

Have you been asked the same question more than once in your business?  I’d be surprised if you haven’t.  It could be any question about your business, it could be about your products, services or just simply – how does this work?  Now the point of this is that you are asked these questions because they know you have the knowledge to provide them with the answer.  If you didn’t clearly you wouldn’t be doing your job properly.

Content

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So how much should you pay for your WordPress website?

By Published 27 May 2014

All WordPress websites are based on themes that can be extended upon their intended purpose – that is part of its power. So the more complex the design or functionality a site owner requires, the more he will have to spend adapting it to suit. We have organised WordPress sites into three types. Each type is progressively more complex and has a higher price tag.

Type A – The no-frills website

Type A is the least expensive option and consists of the bare bones of what you would expect from a brochure / portfolio style website to achieve.

wordpress website designTypically, a Type A website will use an out-of-the-box WordPress theme which are rather like kit-cars i.e. the design is preconfigured with how its structure, functionality and colour palette etc is made up. For example, if the theme allows the background colour to be changed from green to blue, you can’t have it red, unless you are willing to pay extra for customisation.

Warning: Many businesses opt for the Type A site with the intention of making revision after revision until the developer gets it “perfect.” That’s not what the developer has agreed to. The developer has agreed to a basic site at the low end of the cost spectrum and that’s what they’ll deliver. If you want the developer to spend lots of time fine tuning and finessing your site for the Type A price, you will be disappointed.

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10 Poor Excuses NOT to have a Business Blog Now

By Published 15 April 2014

to-blog-or-not-to-blog

Fair warning!  This is a rather pointed prod-of-a-blog, directed towards business owners and entrepreneurs, so if you’re not up for receiving a shove in the right direction, you may want to continue on with your day…however, if you are looking to grow your business for free, then perhaps you might be willing to hear what we have to say…

At LA Marketing, we are in the business of helping other business owners get the most out of their online presence, and it never ceases to amaze and frustrate us that the more we speak to people about the value of blogging and other forms of content marketing, the more we are blown away with lame and down-right daft excuses as to why these men and women are not jumping on the wagon and giving their customers what they are truly looking for.

So in this little post, we have decided to take a break from trying to convince small business owners about the incredible benefits of blogging and to embrace it. Instead, we’re going to talk about some of the bogus excuses we’ve been hearing more and more of these days.

“My company’s website does not currently have a blog because…….”

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Keeping your website content fresh for success

By Published 3 April 2014
Imagine this:

With the help of a website design company, you have just finalised the content and a great look for your new website. Now it’s time to launch it and sit back and let it weave its magic, right? Well, not quite! Keeping your website fresh and up-to-date is a key factor in attracting new customers – and keeping existing ones.

Here we explain why having an up-to-date website is so crucial to its success and offer simple ways in which you can keep your web content performing for you consistently, and for the long term.

3 important reasons why you need to change your web content regularly

1. To help search engines know your value

To put it simply – search engines like websites that change regularly and regard those with the most frequently updated content, to be the most interesting and relevant to web surfers. A lot of value therefore is placed on fresh content so if you want your business to perform well in search engines, then it is vital you appear to be actively updating and adding new content to your website.

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Google+ is a must-have for all business – here’s why…

By Published 4 March 2014

Why Google+?

We all know that being found in search engines organically is in essence free marketing – and who doesn’t like something for free?

SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is a process that includes online and offline strategies that help the search engines to index your site and ultimately takes all of the information you give it and assigns your website a position on search pages.

Google, the main search engine on the internet, does this by using different signals to determine the quality and relevance of each page of your website. The most important among these signals is links from other sites. These links must be of high quality to rank higher in search engine results. A link from the BBC News site will be valued much more highly than a link from a small independent news sharing site, for example.

Google+ isn’t just another social media platform; it’s a powerful weapon in your SEO arsenal and having an active profile page with Google+ and linking it to your website (and vice versa) can help you increase search rankings for your website.

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