Tag Archives: website

Regular WordPress Website Maintenance

regular wordpresswebsite maintenance-no-hackers!

Responsive WordPress website designs are an affordable, versatile  solution for small businesses seeking a new or updated website they can update themselves. Those who already have a WordPress website know that WordPress works great on many levels. The biggest concern with choosing a WordPress website and managing it yourself  is that the regular WordPress website maintenance is often neglected.

wordpress feature random falling snowWordPress software is updated by WordPress programmers regularly. As any software, some updates are minor and you may not detect a difference on your site. Other updates are more robust. Some WordPress website updates offer new web functionality or a couple just-for-fun features, like falling snow in Winter. You can choose to implement all the new features or just  a few. What is most important in each WordPress update is the added security. Security updates protect from hackers and malware that can take down your website or infect others systems.

Installing WordPress updates is a necessity for keeping your website safe

WordPress is the top content management website platform across the world. It offers great benefits, especially to small businesses. For all of the benefits to choosing WordPress there is a drawback. Hackers love to target it. (Then again it’s not just WordPress that has this concern. Hackers target Joomla websites, Blogger websites and custom built content management systems also…) To avoid issues, Wordpress website maintenance is a critical practice to keeping your WordPress website or WordPress blog in optimal working order. wordpress update alert screen capture

WordPress programmers are proactive in protecting customers against these attacks.  New walls of code are built to keep predators out when vulnerabilities are detected. Once the code is developed a free update is available to all WordPress users. When a new WordPress update is available, there is an alert posted clearly at the top of the administrative area at log in. The date when it was first available is noted as well.

When should the WordPress software be updated?

We will often wait a day or so after a new WordPress version is posted before we select to update. This is because many of the responsive WordPress websites we design include 3rd party plug-ins.  Wordpress plug-in developers may need a little extra time to unsure their plug-in code is compatible with the latest WordPress version. If the plug-ins haven’t updated yet some may not function correctly. Within a few days most plug-ins have caught up. At that point we’ll update to the latest WordPress and plug-in versions. If plug-ins are not updated within a few days of the release of a new WordPress version, install the update but check your website very closely and make sure all plug-ins are working correctly.

Caution: plug-ins are also susceptible to hackers. New versions are made available and alerts are posted in the administrative area of the WordPress websites for plug-ins also. Plug-in developers may offer a new version with increased features and functionality in addition to added security protection.

We recommend updating plug-ins one at a time. After you update each one, check your website to make sure the update is compatible and all functionality is in place. If you choose to update your plug-ins all at once and there is a conflict, it can be difficult to pinpoint which plug-in is causing the conflict.

What happens if I don’t update WordPress regularly?

  • hackers can invade it
  • malware can be installed on your site
  • Google is alerted and will black mark your website
  • your website is rendered harmful to visitors
  • prospective clients and visitors will get a scary alert stating your website may be harmful to their system

What do you do if your website was hacked?

You send a frantic call to your website hosting service or website design firm that your website was hacked, it’s not live and clients can’t reach you and… worst… you don’t have a current back up. Your website will need to be taken down. Once removed from viewers, a temporary screen is posted, and clean-up begins.

What does it cost to fix a website that has been hacked?

  • your website is removed from view from all prospective and current clients
  • you will now be paying hourly website developments fees to comb through each file to find all corrupt code
  • developers clean / remove bad code
  • the cleaned website is uploaded as a  temporary page
  • website is tested
  • website is tested again… again… and again
  • once clear the new files can be uploaded
  • your web host is alerted that your website is safe to go live again
  • submission requests are sent to Google and other SERPs to remove the blocks that have been put in place for your website
  • requests are sent again… again… and sometimes a third time before alerts are completely removed and your website gets the all clear

 This whole procedure can take days or even months to resolve, it depends on how quickly you are alerted of your compromised site and the size of your website.

What is the best way to help keep websites safe from hackers?

By practicing regular WordPress website maintenance. Log in to the administrative area of your WordPress website frequently and make sure everything is up to date. Consider changing your admin password regularly also. Do not assume your web hosting company or your website design firm is maintaining your website. Web maintenance is usually an additional feature because of the time commitment. Look at your plan or agreement, or send your web hosting or design firm an email of phone call to be sure.

We understand staying current with WordPress and 3rd Party plug-in versions can eat up a lot of time. We also feel horrible getting the call “My website’s been hacked, what do I do?” from a small business. Before that happens, set a weekly or monthly timer to log in to your admin panel and keep your software updated. If you don’t have time or the due diligence to do this, you’ll want to look into website maintenance options for small businesses.. Our basic web maintenance package is a perfect entry point for most small business WordPress  websites.

wordpress website maintenance packageBasic WordPress Website Maintenance Package includes:

  • updating all WordPress, Theme and plugins
  • techies handle the technical stuff
  • website protection -security protection from Securi,
  • scheduled back-ups,
  • included Maintenance time / Email support,
  • 1/2 hour of styling and updates.
  • peace of mind

Knowing your site is protected  from potential hackers and will not be a concern to visitors or scare clients and prospects away from working with you is the best return.

Call us today to discuss which package is best suited to you or sign up for a website maintenance package..

Experience The Power of Transformation

brand marketing consultation  lansing  graphic sept blog

Be Your Own Marketing Consultant

Start with a quick SWOT Analysis

You know the definition of insanity, repeating the same action and expecting a different result? Taking a few steps back from your day to day tasks to meet with a brand marketing consultant and look at your business with different eyes can provide clarity. A professional brand marketing consultation will take a comprehensive overview of your company and brand marketing efforts.

A professional brand marketing consultation will consider:

  • your products or services
  • your brand message
  • corporate philosophy
  • corporate climate
  • client demographics
  • marketing goals
  • future plans
  • business goals
  • media preferences
  • and so much more…

A brand marketing consultation often starts with a quick SWOT Analysis.

SWOT stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. You may be surprised how much insight you will gain by investing a bit of time answering the following questions about your business. Get a quick glimpse of your business as it stands today, Doing this homework before your brand marketing consultation can help you hone in on the area you would like to address first and keep your time targeted to get the best results.

  1. What are your products/or service?
  2. Who is your customer (demographics – gender/age/location…)
  3. What are your company strengths?
  4. What are your company weaknesses?
  5. What are your company opportunities?
  6. What are your company threats?
  7. Who is your company competition?

Upon review of all the questions what are the considerations / recommendations?

Now how will you tie all this into your annual business marketing goals?

You now have a current snapshot of your business. It’s time to take the next steps. Select the most critical items or the items that are the most likely to have the biggest impact on your goals.

Answer the following questions:

  1. How can you use your strengths to take advantage of your biggest opportunities?
  2. How can you use your strengths to overcome your biggest threats?
  3. What can you do to reduce or eliminate your weaknesses to make the most of the opportunities available?
  4. How can you minimize your weaknesses, so that you are better positioned to overcome your threats?

Many of the answers to these questions will seem obvious to you – even basic. Once your SWOT analysis is complete and you schedule your brand marketing consultation  you will see the power of how putting it all on paper and setting planned goals and actions can truly change your business.

Online Brand Marketing Consultations

Connection Group provides in person brand marketing consultations to local Lansing, Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan clients and all areas in between.

For businesses outside of lower Michigan, online brand marketing consultations are available. We will review your website, business social media profiles, all internet advertising and digital marketing. When applicable, we also request all print materials and promotions be mailing or emailed to us for previewing prior to meeting with a brand marketing consultant. Getting a comprehensive view of all company branding and marketing, both in print and web, will help us offer the best brand marketing guidance for your company goals.

 

Why is website content king?

By Connie Sweet

Content, content and more website content. Every move we make in internet marketing is to drive more content. From content management systems of custom designed websites, to blog entries, to custom infographics, to white papers, our travels around the web are leading us to more and more website content everyday.

As a marketing firm our days are filled with designing and developing unique content for websites, blogs, social media and business print communications for ourselves and our customers. We write and design new website content and upload it to websites through content management systems (the administrative area or back end of a website). We do this because Google told us to.

As we all know Google is the largest search engine on the web, the second largest (at last check) is YouTube, owned by Google. We do what Google says because we want positive results.

What drives the need for all of this website content?

Googles’ strategy for feeding content is truthfully helpful to all of us. For many years search engines we’re pretty much worthless because many ‘SEO experts’ abused the system and dumped keywords and phrases into websites that had nothing to do with the search term people were entering. Websites selling watches would saturate their sites with keywords like ‘graphic design services Lansing’, ‘website design services mid-Michigan’, etc. to get organic traffic to their website. So a search for ‘website content services in Lansing’ would send you to an e-commerce site that sells watches and doesn’t have anything to do with website content services.

Googles’ content driven approach matches actual relevant website content with keywords. When prospects do search for graphic design Lansing, Michigan the search engine will look to see if graphic design and Lansing, MIchigan are mentioned in the website and if so, are the terms relevant to the other information on the website. For instance is there also mention of logo design, website design, etc., other terms that are related to the search query. This results in more accurate results when search queries are entered in search engines.

A few blog articles covering graphic design will help. The other component that feeds the results are key content pages throughout the site with more details on the subject. Along with regular blog entries, your website pages should offer information about your specialties.

Take a look at some of your competitions’ website content and evaluate against your website. Do they have five pages discussing their service in detail and you have one small paragraph? They win. They will win the search war and they may also win the customer because their information answers the visitors questions instantly.

So if you have content why isn’t your website coming up higher in searches?

Enter the frequency quotient. Search engines also place relevance on how current a websites’ content is. A search robot will crawl thousands of websites each day. If new website content is not detected since the last visit, the bots will skip over your site and not index it again. If your competition adds new website content to their site regularly and search bots crawl and index it each time, they will always come up higher in search results than you.

Unfortunately, this requires businesses to create and post relevant website content on a regular basis to compete in the market place. This can be burdensome for small companies who do not have the work force, time or budget.

Options available for driving website traffic

  • compile and create original website content in house
  • outsource content to an internet marketing firm
  • purchase internet advertising including google adwords, social media, etc.

New businesses, especially small start up companies who come to us first for a website design typically attempt the first option for adding website content. Sadly, more times than not other business responsibilities take over and entrepreneurs realize four months have passed without one blog entry or website update. (This goes for social media posting too.) Now desperate, small businesses start looking into other options.

What to consider when choosing to outsource website content development

  • amount of website content to post to be relevant to your target market
  • types of website content that will resonate with your target market
  • do they offer a variety of content, writing, graphics, etc.
  • custom, original content
  • where content will be shared (industry forums, groups, LinkedIN, Facebook)
  • who will moderate online responses
  • what is an affordable monthly budget

What to be cautious of when choosing to outsource website content development:

  • one sized fits all policy
  • limited product solutions
  • tricky SEO practices
  • duplicated content
  • outsourcing / guest blog posts, etc.

Keep in mind website content is not just page copy or blog posts, content is also photos, graphics, logos, e-books, pdfs, and infographics, etc. Mixing up the types of content presented helps to reach a variety of prospects. Considering our eyes process visuals 90% faster than straight text, using graphics on your website can capture the visitor quicker and leave a lasting impression. Another benefit to adding graphical content to your website is that the content is easily shareable in social media and messaging.

As with all marketing, to achieve the best internet marketing results an individualized plan for each business is key. The good news here is this custom approach requires less effort and less expense when implemented correctly. Give us a call today to review your website and discuss what forms of website content will help you to win the organic or paid search war.

Is Responsive Website Design an Affordable Solution for Small Business?

It’s almost July, should you take a vacation or update your small business website to a responsive website design?

Based on  Compuware, 2012 statistic stating “57 percent of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site”you may want to put that sabbatical on hold. If your small business marketing goal this year is to increase internet marketing exposure we recommend you start with your website. For most small businesses building a stand alone small business mobile website and a standard small business website designed for desktop monitors is not very feasible. Maintaining one website design can be challenging enough for a small business – having to maintain two separate websites that essentially contain the same information is absolutely daunting – and quickly proves to be unrealistic. Enter, responsive website design.

Responsive Website Design: Small Businesses Affordable Mobile Website Solution

graphic of a desktop monitor navigation menu

Example of navigation view on a standard desktop monitor.

responsive website deisgn drop down navigation menu

Example of responsive website design navigation drop down option

Responsive website design is the solution for small businesses who want their website visitors to be able to navigate their corporate website easily on any device they choose. From a smart phone, tablet, or desktop monitor, a responsive website design will conform to fit the screen size of the device the visitor is using. Responsive website design programming automatically detects the size of the device screen the visitor is calling up your website from. The responsive website design will either reduce, collapse or expand the content depending on the size of the screen. A clear example is shown in the graphics on the right. A small business website created for a national professional speaker w that is viewed on a desktop monitor has an expanded navigation bar. When you view it on the smart phone the navigation will condense to a drop down menu. The mobile user doesn’t have to scroll all the way to left or right or up or down, all they need do is click on the drop down box arrow (indicated with the red circle) and select the section they want more details on.

Not only does the responsive website design we offer  reduce our customers need to have a separate mobile site built it also saves money because they can be built with the WordPress content management system (CMS). Small businesses can reduce internet marketing expense  by developing a responsive website design built in WordPress. A responsive website design in WordPress will have a simple back end management system that allows users without programming knowledge to easily add new content. Companies can now update their service pages, add new staff members, promote an event, announce new products and add photos and videos of the new products. A whole gamut of information can be added to your small business website without having to pay for website edits from a professional website design firm. All of this without knowing how to write code.

Having the control of your website content is more critical now than ever before.

Google has led the way with search engines to provide more accurate search results. Google search results are now based on relevant content found on each website. For example if you search for small business responsive website design firms in Lansing, MI Google will look for websites that use keywords such as ‘responsive website design for small business’ in multiple pages of their website. Google will look for common words, design, website, responsive website design, Lansing, MI to make sure the website is legitimate based on the relative content on the website. This also demonstrates how important it is for small businesses to continually add relevant, updated content to their website… but that is another blog entry or email news article.

Besides the need to have a mobile friendly small business website, when was the last time your business website received a fresh new look? We joke here at Connection Group that we can tell the approximate year a website was built based on the design. Kind of like women’s hairstyles, straight long hair is clearly 60’s flower child and teased, moussed, mile high hair and mullet’s are unabashedly big hair from the 80’s. There is often no denying the era a small business website design emerged. Don’t be that small business stuck in the 90’s! Showing a dated design to visitors and  prospects sends the message that your company is not staying current with trends and technology. Much credibility can be lost with one click of the button.

So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today and let us provide a 15-20 minute responsive website design consultation for your small business. Depending on our schedule, we may be able to take a look at your current website while we are on the phone with you today. We can talk about some of the goals you have in mind for your small business internet marketing locally in the mid-Michigan area or find out if your company needs a more powerful national reach. Updating to a responsive website design is the most affordable website solution to get small businesses current and mobile ready as well as have an updated visually appealing website that will connect with visitors on all devices.

Small Business Owners: Do I need a website if I have a….

…Facebook Page … LinkedIn Business Page… Pinterest following

when you get -give, when you learn teach quote maya angelouIt scares me how often I am asked this question. Typically when a start-up business or growing small business consults with us on creating a professional company brand we need to have ‘the talk’. We’ve had the ‘do I need a website talk’ here before. Social media updates, SEO and skewed business models beg for a review. 

We’ve read the success stories; “Start up Yarn store sells volumes of skeins through their Facebook page’. Yes we’ve seen leads from LinkedIn turn into real live customers. But did those people who bought the yarn specifically go to Facebook looking for yarn? When your new found customer sought the service you offer on LinkedIn, were you the only company offering that service? No, no you were not.  This alone should help you answer the do I need a website question, but I will keep going.

Possibly the positive results in social media were driven by purchasing ads, feeding captivating content in Facebook, or using the correct keywords on your LinkedIn company page… or maybe the stars and the moon were aligned at just the right angle… We have no control on what social media sites our target market visits.  We have no control who sees our Facebook company page from post to post. We have no control over our competition claims on LinkedIn. How can we put our company success under somebody else’s control? Especially brands that also dictate what information we add to their websites and how it will be distributed?

Before I start sounding like LinkedIn and Facebook (and Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr …) are complete evil time-sucking novelties that are guided purely to monetize every move we make let me share sincere marketing advice:  Using multiple distribution points gets your marketing message in front of your prospects multiple times. You want to be where your clients are and if there are millions of businesses on LinkedIn everyday and you are a business to business (B2B) company you’re darn right you should be there too!  If your Pinterest and Facebook followers are engaging with your post and sharing it with their Aunt Susie, keep posting!

Long lasting success comes from consistent branding across multiple platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media sites are best served as outposts for your content. Your company website is the pitch, white paper, brochure, training, demo and closing table all in one. Your outposts should drive prospects to your brand website where you are in charge and can serve your customer best.

meida graphic-internet marketingWhy Do I Need a Website?

  1. A company website is available to people actively seeking a specific thing (product / service / education / research source).
  2. A company website markets your product and service only.
  3. Your product / service shines here, you decide what to share and visitors get their answers.
  4. Your company website is available to everyone. There’s no user agreement or need to be a member.
  5. Visitors contact information can be captured for follow up.
  6. Your website reflects your business personality and brand message.
  7. A clear call to action in the form you prefer (email, phone call, form, etc.) encourages connections.
  8. You own it.

Full disclosure: along with small business brand marketing, Connection Group builds websites. Yes, we would love to build a website for your small business. We also want to help small businesses succeed whether we provide purchased services or education via a free blog post or other or freebies.

Not all marketers agree. I recently read a post in a LinkedIn group where the author claimed all a B2B company needs is a LinkedIn company page. The author was shamed into silence from the over 100 threads from serious marketers explaining why all businesses need a website. Not all marketers offer website designs and the recommendation that small businesses need a website was not driven by sales. The advice was meant as a caution not to put all your marketing efforts into one portal. If you still feel a social media page is the best way to align business success there is somebody out there who will be happy to charge you to set up a MySpace account.

Stay connected!

Like what you’ve read here? Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter Connectivity for more brand marketing tips.

Facebook – It’s All in a Name

Facebook logoCreating a Facebook vanity URL of your Facebook business fan page is one of the first steps you should take while it is under development. A clear and easily linkable URL will aid in your marketing efforts on your website and your print materials and social media promotions.

It’s really very simple to create a vanity url for your Facebook fan page whether it is a Group or a Page. The only prerequisite is that you have at least 25 fans. Hey, if you don’t have 25 customers that have liked it yet, recruit your family and friends!.

Other considerations when choosing your name:
Facebook doesn’t allow common terms such as Hockey or Weather to represent page names. The best approach is to choose a vanity url that is closest to your personal or company name. We were fortunate to secure our actual business name for our Facebook business page facebook.com/connectiongraphics.com. We own the name Connection Group and wanted to secure it quickly so nobody else would. Rules are you are suppose to own the name you choose but some people have been known to try and get around these rules and it is best to protect yourself and secure it.

Keep in mind that a name must only contain letters and numbers, punctuation marks or glyphs do not work (%*^, ) etc. You also want to be very careful with your spelling! Double check your words because there is no going back once it is created and accepted. Check with Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for more details on all of this information.

Secure your Facebook custom company fan page user name here.
Contact me with any questions, stay connected!