Get a website tonight

Yes, you can build a website tonight, but will it represent your business accurately?

Have you noticed all the ads on television and social media for simple website services allowing you to “get a website tonight”? Can you “click, click” and build your website tonight?

What a great idea you think, why don’t we do that? Whoa! Not so fast! Building a website can be accomplished with programs such as these, but ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will a template selected from the provided ones represent my business well?
  2. Will it have my branding and approach to doing business or will I just have to go with what’s there hoping that my branding fits?
  3. Will it be easy to add on to as my company grows?
  4. Will my website be compatible with mobile devices?
  5. Does my business own all the site graphics, design and content?
  6. Will I be helped to understand what keywords, terms and tags will help position my firm in search engine results?
  7. How can I be certain my site is registered with search directories, search engines and can be found by Google?
  8. If I choose to leave the platform where I build my site, can I easily export and install my site on my own host?

If you are unsure of how to answer any of these questions, you owe it to yourself to do a bit of research on what constitutes a good website, how to create strong keyword centered copy that properly describes your business and gets you found in search engine results. Yes, small businesses need to have a website, especially one that will be viewable on mobile devices.

A local provider you can speak with can guide your planning

Can you get a website that is a customized fit for your business without breaking your budget? Yes you can. There are many companies like ours in the greater Charleston area that can create a custom site for you that meets your business needs, doesn’t break the bank and is done on time. In these days of realizing that local is the new green, support your local web design firm. It’s just good business for you, your community and for your business.

*This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated and republished.

Strong passwords help secure your site and your reputation

Some things are so important they bear keeping in mind. This evergreen post was initially published in 2012 and has been updated to make it current.

Without strong passwords, your site is open to thieves

We want to speak to you about the importance of using strong passwords.

In recent days, we have recorded thousands of separate attempts to access WordPress accounts on our servers. Undoubtedly there could have been more, as our security software is configured to send us reports when a user has been locked out after entering the wrong password multiple times. This is not a deliberate attack on our servers. Attacks like this go constantly, day in and day out, on every web server on the internet.

Resistance is futile without strong passwords

These attacks are carried out by networks of compromised computers known as botnets. An individual computer can be infected in various ways and become part of a network which is then used, without the knowledge of the owner, in endeavors such as denial of service attacks and password guessing schemes. There are literally thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands of computers involved in a single network.

Our security software allows multiple retries before imposing a lockout or total ban on your IP address.

These attacks are not very sophisticated. They do not have to be, as there is zero cost to the attacker who is using someone else’s computer for the attack. These attacks often succeed because the average person does not use a strong password. The statistics on most cracked passwords from 10,000 Top Passwords make it obvious why these attacks work:

  • 4.7% of users have the password password
  • 8.5% have the passwords password or 123456
  • 9.8% have the passwords password, 123456 or 12345678
  • 14% have a password from the top 10 passwords
  • 40% have a password from the top 100 passwords
  • 79% have a password from the top 500 passwords
  • 91% have a password from the top 1000 passwords

Check to be sure your password is not on a list of the worst passwords.

Securing your site

Your minimum goal is to make sure you are not part of the 91% using the top 1000 passwords. It is not as difficult as you may think. You can have a reasonably strong password that is not impossible to remember.

Simple / common passwords are always tried first. Cute or unusual spellings are no replacement for a good password. While you may think that unusual spelling or replacing letters with similar numbers, i.e. secure spelled s3cur3, will make it hard to guess, someone else has already come up with it many times before and it is in the common passwords list. Simple, short, one word passwords just are not good enough. In this case, size matters.

Use either a totally random string of characters, such as this, FT3GvOUZn4WOZ077hL5B (make up your own, do NOT use this one), from my password generator, which requires a password manager to remember (which is what we do), or use at least two random words and at least one random number. Go ahead, write it down (but don’t reuse it anywhere else). You are not defending against someone that’s breaking into your office to search your desk, you are defending from automated attack by a botnet.

A great resource for generating random words is unique-names.com. Just open the page and pick two or three words from the list. Stick in one or two random two or three digit numbers between and/or after the words, and you have a password with extremely low odds of being on the list of guessed passwords. The words themselves are almost guaranteed to be on the list, so DO NOT use only one word. It is the particular combination of words and numbers which is strong. If you’d like to use a truly random number, ramdom.org has a true random number generator on their front page. Just enter a minimum and maximum, say 100 and 999, click Generate, and use the three digit random number you’ve just generated. Write your password down or enter it into your favorite password manager.

Manage your passwords

Should you wish to start using a password management system, there are several good ones reviewed at InfoWorld, both free and commercial. We prefer KeePass, but read the review and see which one works for you.

Changing your password in WordPress is easy. There’s a video at WordPress.tv showing how to do this. While this video was generated a number of years ago for WordPress.com, the basic functionality still applies and works for both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.

One of the most important things to remember when using a password manager is that there is now a single password which grants access to all the others. It is imperative you use a very good password to access the password manager’s database. We recommend trying several words arranged into a memorable nonsense phrase (those random word lists at unique-names.com are handy for this). Again, size matters.

You may think, why should I worry about someone guessing my password, there’s nothing valuable on my website. What happens to your brand’s reputation if malware is installed on your site and all your visitors are infected? And what happens when Google marks your site as infected and posts that in conjunction with your URL? If your site spews malware, you’ll see all the hard-earned SEO efforts you’ve dedicated yourself to crumble.

Don’t share your login with others. If you must share with someone, so they can perform maintenance or install software or perform some action you have authorized, change your password after the task is completed.

Last, but extremely important, never, never, ever, reuse passwords. Once a password is guessed, the attackers will attempt to identify other accounts you own and try the password on all of them, like your online banking accounts. What about your domain registration? What would it cost your business, in money and reputation, if someone logged into your account at your domain registrar, and stole your domain? What if they then linked it to a pornography site?

Adding 2 Factor Authentication to your site

Adding two factor authentication (2FA) to your site is one way to add another layer of security. It uses something you know (like your password) with something you have (your phone for example which can generate or receive other login information.

WordPress writes:

Logging in with a password is single-step authentication. It relies only on something you know. Two-step authentication, by definition, is a system where you use two of the three possible factors to prove your identity, instead of just one. In practice, however, current two-step implementations still rely on a password you know, but use your Phone or another device to authenticate with something you have.

WordPress Beginner offers a tutorial on adding Google Authenticator as a 2 factor authenticator service.  Plugins for 2FA can be installed as well. Here’s one from techjourney.com about how to use Authy for 2FA on your site.

Make sure you have a strong password, and consider adding 2FA

We figure a word to the wise is sufficient. Create strong passwords. Don’t share them. And never resuse them. Your business and reputation depend on it.

 

Does Your Website Fit?

 

Business website planning when done well yields results. Have you spent time wisely?

At start-up, you allocate funds to equip your office, purchase computers and software to manage your business. However, did you allocate business website planning time and funds to get the website your business needs to attract the right customers and present your brand correctly?

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Websites are not “one-size fits all” solutions. To get one that is tailored precisely for your business needs, you must know:

  1. Who your primary customers are
  2. What they search for on the Internet
  3. How your products and services fulfill their needs and wants
  4. What is the primary purpose of your website
  5. What is the primary action your site’s visitors should take
  6. Who is going to manage your website and keep it updated
  7. How will you track success or quantify conversions
  8. How will you market your website

These insights help you develop buyer personas for each potential customer visiting your website—and they may be different than other buyer personas you’ve developed for face to face sales. Buyer personas in turn help your web design and development firm to create the site that will support your business goals.

Of course, you know your business goals are not the same as your competitors. And you know your brand must have a different selling proposition—one which positions your company distinctively when compared to your competition.

Tailored for Your Business

We often see people with great ideas and stellar business concepts essentially shutting the door to potential opportunity when they decide that their website can be created by their friend’s teenage son or by using cheap web site development templates or online site building tools.

They make the mistake of buying “off the rack” and getting a template or design that was made to fit just about anybody. What often happens after purchasing off the rack? They spend their precious dollars having a web developer reverse engineer the template to fit their business brand and goals.

Isn’t it much more efficient to build what is best going to suit your business? This is a no-waste strategy. Get exactly the right solution for exactly your goals.

Don’t expect that you can figure this out in an afternoon, or a day or even a week. You will need to do some homework. Know how your competitors’ sites function. You must look at lots of websites—within and without your industry. Evaluate what works as you use a site and what frustrates you. Try, if you can, to think like a customer, not as the business. Analyze what makes you leave a site or what makes you stay. And most importantly, what makes you take a particular action? All these insights will clarify for you and your web developer how to design and implement the site your firm needs which will fit the needs of your customers. Remember, the customer is the ultimate user, not you. It is her you must satisfy.

Your website is your twenty-four-seven-three-sixty-five overview of your firm, lead generator and answer provider—and if you offer e-commerce, your always-open online store.

And if you already have a website for your business does it gain you leads? Does it offer all the right information to your customers? Have you ever asked your customers what they like best about your site or like least? Do you track how successful it is? If you cannot answer these questions definitively, then you may need to invest the time and take a fresh look at your site. And you may need to give it a boost or even a redesign so it works. After all, if your site doesn’t work for you what good is it?

Start With the End In Mind

How can you get started planning your website? We provide this planning questionnaire to our customers. Use it. Doing so will help you spend wisely, and will yield you a custom tailored website that fits your business, and which helps you get the right kind of leads to grow your business.

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash