Blog2020-11-28T11:37:18-05:00

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is more than a website.

We are located in the Lake Norman area of North Carolina. We are a digital agency that helps regional and local businesses be more successful online with custom website design, marketing campaigns, branding, content, and SEO services.

Creating a connection between you and your current and future customers.

Digital marketing gets you visible online. Keeping you ahead of your competition and in front of your target audience.

We are personal. Creating your custom digital marketing plan based on a deep understanding of your company, customer, and business goals.

August 22nd, 2021|

Report: iCloud+ Private Relay could spell the end of iOS ad fingerprinting

What you need to know

Apple will ship iCloud+ Private Relay alongside iOS 15 this fall.

A new report considers the privacy feature to be the “beginning of the end” for iOS device fingerprinting.

But it isn’t perfect

Apple’s iOS 15 release, due to arrive this fall, will see the arrival of iCloud+ and its new Private Relay feature. It’ll obfuscate a user’s IP address to help prevent them from being tracked across the internet and, according to one report, it could spell the end for iOS device fingerprinting.

According to DigiDay, some ad execs believe that Apple isn’t enforcing its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) rules as harshly as it could — but that Private Relay could be the ace in the hole.

Private Relay will re-route an iPhone, iPad, and Mac’s data through an Apple server and then out via another one that’s owned by a trusted third party. Nobody knows who that third party is, and it’s the use of separate ingress and egress servers that ensures a user’s privacy — web services will have no idea what their actual IP address is. And neither will the trusted third party, either. It’s here where it’s thought Apple’s anti-fingerprinting goal will really kick in.

Private Relay renders a person’s IP address useless for fingerprinting because it redirects web traffic through two separate servers. Granted, an IP address is just one of many aspects that make a fingerprint of someone’s behavior on a device — but it’s an important one.

What’s more, DigiDay believes that Private Relay is just the start, with more Apple-led privacy moves to come that could yet further hinder device — and user — identification across the internet. But it isn’t perfect.

There are other loopholes in Private Relay that could be exploited. For instance, Private Relay restricts traffic apps send over an insecure web connection (HTTP). So apps that use an IP address for fingerprinting could theoretically work around this by using a secure web connection or some other transport protocol. This may lead to a “cat and mouse game” between Apple, ad tech vendors with fingerprinting solutions, and the apps integrating them, said Aaron McKee, chief technology officer at mobile ad tech vendor Blis.

It’s that cat and mouse game that Apple has signed itself up for and, so far at least, it seems to be up for the fight. Who will win, nobody knows — but I know where my money’s going. Privacy is one of the best iPhone features around and that’s why Apple promotes it so heavily. It has the bit between its teeth and won’t be letting go of it any time soon.

July 8th, 2021|

Search Your Domain

If you’d like to see all the pages that Google search has indexed for your site, go to google.com and in the search field enter site:yourdomain.com For example site:apple.com

June 19th, 2021|

SEO Basics

If you are blogging regularly then you will want people to find your content and the best way of getting reads is via Google searches. A lot of people see SEO or Search Engine Optimization as a dark art and it really isn’t. Once you get a few basic techniques down your content will start to show on Google.

These tips are very basic and getting these right is only 1 very small part of search engine optimization.

Titles
The title is the most important thing on your page. Get it right as this is also what shows on Google’s search listing for your page. It also decides the main search terms you will show up for on Google.

So, what makes a good title? Apart from featuring your indenting search terms and describing what your article is about it should also meet a few other criteria:

  • Titles should not be longer than 60 characters
  • Titles should be the only H1 tag on the page
  • Titles should not contain links to other pages

Get these 3 things right and you are on the right track but titles are not everything.

Meta Descriptions
Staying with what shows on your Google search result listing, your meta description is another key element of your page. This is not visible on your site but rather sits within the code and is read by Google and other search engines.

This short snippet of text should describe your post, feature the key phrase you are hoping to show up for and entice the user to click on your listing to find out more.

A meta description should be between 50 and 160 characters. Anything longer than 160 characters will be clipped short on the Google search results page.

Image Alt Tags
Another piece of code that affects your ranking chances and is also mostly hidden like meta tags are the alt tags associated with your images. These are used for a number of things and perhaps most importantly are used by screen readers to help the visually impaired browse your site.

An image alt tag should feature your key phrase but not only your key phrase. You should also describe the image for the visually impaired. The is no limit to the text in an alt tag but don’t go mad, keep the description here to under 10 words.

Content
You must have heard the saying “content is king” and as much as I hate this saying as content is not always a good thing when it comes to SEO the saying is mostly true. Google loves good content, with good being the keyword here.

Bad content will mark you down in Google’s eyes and everything you write on your site adds to the bigger picture of who are you and do you add value to users. You need to write good, valuable content that people want to read. Each post should have at least 350 words and generally the longer the article the better.

Longer articles are better but don’t waffle, repeat yourself or use 10 words when 2 will do. These are all bad writing habits and exactly why I don’t tell clients they have to hit a word count on every page. If you can’t write 1,000 words on a topic that is not a problem – just write at least 350 words in a high-quality article.

Links

There are 3 types of links, 2 you control and should get right every time and 1 you don’t control but perhaps can influence.
Internal Links
Let’s start with internet links as you have complete control over these. Internal links are the links in your content to other relevant pieces of content you have written within your website. When you read an article on my site and I have mentioned something I have previous written about I always include a link back to the original article.

This kind of internal linking helps Google work out the relationship between your pages and builds a better picture of the structure of your website.

Outbound Links
You should always link to your sources when quoting reference material. It is also a good idea to link out to external references that back up your ideas and writing. Google will see these links and build relationships leading to a better understanding of your content and ultimately the better Google understands you the higher you will show in search results.

Back Links
The final type of link is a backlink and this is somewhat beyond your control. A backlink is a link to your article from another website. These will come naturally in time as you build an audience and build awareness of your website. As you write more good quality content the more chance you have of getting someone to link back to you.
There is another way to get backlinks and this is what most professional SEO’s charge the big money for – link outreach. Link outreach is not as complex as it sounds, it is the practice of contacting other website owners that have similar fo supporting content as yours and asking them to link a few words in their article to your article on a similar subject matter.

Frequency
Finally, the last part of SEO that most people overlook is the frequency of your new content. Google loves content and will keep coming back to read your latest posts. The more often you post the more often Google will review your website.

If only it was that simple. You have to keep up your posting schedule so don’t start posting new content every day as you will not be able to keep this up long term. Start with once a week for a new site and see how you get on. I post every 2 – 3 days because the experience of running several websites tells me this is something I can comfortably do.

To help with consistency look if your content management system allows for you to schedule posts in the future. I use Ghost which has this feature and I can spend a Saturday afternoon writing 3 – 4 posts in one go and have them steadily released over the next week or 2. This takes the pressure off having to write something new and high quality every other day and allows my site to almost run on autopilot while I am busy in the day job.

These are just the basics of SEO and the subject goes a lot deeper when you start looking at mobile-first indexing, usability and schema markup. These advanced topics are something you probably don’t need to be too concerned with for your blog but are important if you want the number 1 spot for a key phrase like “best web designer”

June 19th, 2021|

Five Essentials For Keeping Your Website Safe

Your website is critical to your business

Your website is one of the most important assets in your business. It’s vital that you keep it updated, protected and online so that you can serve your customers.

If your website is offline or suffering from problems, it’s no longer effective for your business and will lose you revenue (directly – through lost sales/visits or indirectly through word of mouth or social media posts).

In today’s modern world, there are also many other factors to be aware of. It’s common for websites to be targeted with hacking attempts. In fact, the average website will have automated attacks looking for weaknesses multiple times per day.

Are you looking after your WordPress website right now? Can you remember the last time you ran updates in the admin dashboard?

Some of you reading this will never even have logged into the back-end of your WordPress website. What you need to understand is that your website runs using software, just like your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet or mobile device. If you don’t keep that software updated, you run the risk of errors, malfunctions or in the worst cases malware infections.

Paying attention to updates, ensuring they’re carried out effectively on your website and testing afterwards does take time. It may not be time that you have available personally, but it’s a critical task as it will keep your website secure, online and visible to your target audience.

Do you have someone in-house who is suitably knowledgeable with WordPress to perform these updates? It’s okay if you don’t, no-one can blame you considering this could easily cost you $30,000+ per year to have an employee with the right skillset to be able to look after your website. But you’ll need to have a plan in place to keep your website updated and safe.

In this guide, we’ve put together five key essentials to help you set up a maintenance schedule and to keep your website secure. Taking these steps will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on what’s important to you in your business.

1. Peace Of Mind – Don’t leave backups to chance

One of the worst things that can happen to you as a business owner is to try and access your website and find that it’s offline. Even worse though, is when you get that dreaded email from a customer who tells you that your website is down or that there is a message from Google telling them about malware.

What do you do in a situation like that? For most people, this would mean reaching out to your hosting company and being completely reliant on the ability of their support team to assist you. In most instances, they’ll be able to restore a backup of your website – but this may not have all of the latest data, especially if you regularly update your website or have transactional data like E-Commerce.

As a business owner, you need to have a disaster recovery plan. If you don’t have one already, you must take a few minutes out of your day right now and think about what you will do when something goes wrong with your website.

TIP: Make a note of key telephone numbers or contact details for your hosting company, domain provider and email provider (if separate e.g. G Suite). If you have any problems with your website, you need to have these contact details to hand easily. Don’t plan on keeping these in the same place as your emails, because it’s possible for your website and emails to be down at the same time.

The most important part of your disaster recovery plan is going to center around backups. With a full backup of your website, you can recover this to ANY hosting provider, even in the worst situations.

There are three key things you need to think about with your backup schedule:

1. Off-site Backup – For proper security and safety, your backups should be stored with an external service. For example – Amazon’s S3 platform, Google Drive or Dropbox. This mitigates against any issue where your current hosting provider is inaccessible.

2. Regular Schedule – Your backup schedule will vary depending on how often you update your website and the type of audience you serve. For the average small business WordPress website, a full backup once per week and a daily database backup would be sufficient. For E-Commerce, a daily full backup and an hourly database backup may be a much better recommendation.

3. Encrypted – For the safety of your business data, you should choose a solution that encrypts the backup of your website before storing it off-site. This keeps your data and most importantly your customer data, secure.

2. Security – Good security saves websites

As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, good website security practices are vitally important for your business.

WordPress powers over 30% of the websites on the Internet. It’s popular and highly powerful. However, with this popularity that also means that you have to be vigilant with the security of your website.

There are thousands of plugins that add functionality to WordPress websites. Your website will have a number of these installed. These will have regular feature and security updates released. Likewise, the WordPress software itself will also have regular updates made available.

The security of your website will rest solely on your shoulders as the business owner. Your hosting company will have some security settings that help to protect your website, but these will not shield you from all of the dangers online. If something goes wrong, your hosting company may restore a backup as mentioned before, but aside from that, you’ll likely be on your own.

You need to have suitable security protection on your WordPress website. To get started with a free installation, you can install a plugin such as WordFence or iThemes Security. These both have quick start guides to help you get setup, but care should be taken to ensure that you don’t accidentally lock yourself out of your own website.

When working with third parties such as developers or designers, you should always retain full control of all password settings. This means not giving out your “master passwords” (main logins) to third parties. If anyone needs access to your website, hosting account or any other digital property, always try and make sure they have a unique login and that this can be disabled by you / your team at any time.

Security is very much a lot of common sense and a little bit of luck. No WordPress website is 100% secure, in fact, no website in the world is 100% secure. The simplest point of failure in most cases is actually a human – whether it’s via scam or a hacked device, or whether they’ve coded something poorly.

TIP: Review the last year and think about third parties that you have worked with. Did you give out a master password to any users? If you did, have you updated it since? Make a list of everything that you’ve either given out a password for and that needs updating or that you haven’t updated in the last 2-3 months. Then update these passwords using a strong password. You can use https://strongpasswordgenerator.com/ if you need help with generating a strong password.

3. Maintenance – Your website should never have a sick day

Just like your car, your website needs servicing to stay in the best condition. It’s really important that regular maintenance occurs on your WordPress website.

Without regular maintenance, you run the risk of your website being attacked, going offline through an error or not functioning correctly when future updates are applied.

You’re going to need to schedule regular maintenance time into your calendar or the calendar of your employees.

So what should you schedule? Here’s a list of 4 key items to look at:

  • WordPress Updates – New versions of WordPress are available periodically. These should be installed quite quickly, as they often contain security patches.
  • Plugin Updates – The plugins in use on your website will have regular feature and security updates available. These should be updated often, to ensure that everything is secure.
  • Theme Updates – The theme in use on your website will also have updates available periodically. Make sure you update your theme to keep your website secure.
  • Check Backups – You should check to make sure that your backups are successfully being saved to an external location on a regular basis. If you can’t see the most recent backups at your storage location, you’ll need to fix this as soon as possible. Backups are critical!

Before starting any maintenance work on your website, always make sure that you have a recent backup of your website. You need to be able to restore this if you have any issues with the updates that you are performing.

Once you’ve made any updates, you will need to test your website to ensure all is performing well. To do this, log-out of your admin dashboard and visit each of the pages on your website. If you have any contact forms, fill these in and check that you’re receiving emails successfully.

TIP: Set up a maintenance schedule for your website. You’ll want to schedule this approximately once a week and to set aside up to an hour for the work. Make sure that the user you have assigned is able to work on this regularly and to document any work completed so that you can refer back to this if you have any issues.

4. Reliability – Is your host up to scratch?

Website hosting is one of the most common digital services that you can find online. Every website needs it. Without hosting, your website would not be visible on the Internet. Unfortunately, not every website hosting company offers the same quality and service.

If your hosting currently costs you less than a cup of coffee per month, the likelihood is that you’re paying too little. Low-cost hosting is on what is known as a “shared environment”. This is when thousands of websites are all squeezed onto the same server. The benefit for the hosting company is that they can make more money from each server, but this has unfortunate downsides for your business.

When your website is on a shared hosting server you are sharing the same resources as thousands of other websites. If any of these websites stretches the resources available a little too thin or carries out an action that causes a problem on the server, your website may go offline.

Performance issues can be a major factor on a shared hosting environment. Visitors to your website will wait on average around 5 seconds before they get bored and look elsewhere. If your website loads slowly with your hosting provider, which competitor do you think they’ll go to?

Another common issue is when you host your emails and your website with the same hosting provider. With shared hosting your emails are all being sent from the same server as many thousands of other email addresses. If just one person on the server decides to start sending out a lot of spam (voluntarily or involuntarily), this can cause the IP address of the server to be blocked by email providers. What this means for you in simple terms is that you’ll find your emails not being delivered to your customers, suppliers and important recipients, which has the potential to be extremely destructive for your business. Emails should be hosted externally to your website. Check out G Suite, Office 365, or Zoho Mail for affordable email solutions.

Realistically, you should choose the best hosting that your business can afford. This is one of the most important options that you should not penny-pinch on, as a business owner. As a ballpark, the average website could be hosted very securely for around $25-30 per month online. Yes, this is more than a coffee. But what price is the cost to fix a website that has trouble on a cheap shared hosting platform? I can tell you it’s often in the hundreds of dollars.

TIP: Review how much you’re currently paying for your hosting and where you found this hosting company online. If you’re paying around the price of a large coffee or two per month, it’s quite likely that the company may not be the best option for you. Also, take a serious look at your emails. Switching to G Suite costs around $6/month per user, and it’s on one of the most reliable email platforms on the Internet – run by Google.

5. Proactive Not Reactive – Don’t wait till disaster strikes

You have two options when it comes to your WordPress website…

Do you want to be proactive, keep your website updated, being ready for any issues that might arise? Or would you prefer to be reactive and only react when there is a problem, often when it’s far too late for a quick fix?

Whilst it makes sense to try and limit outgoings, it’s far more expensive to react to disaster than it is to have proactive monitoring in place and to be able to mitigate issues as they happen.

Do you have the experience to look after your website or do you have an employee who is experienced? As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, a typical cost for a competent WordPress individual to work in your company could be around $30,000/year. That’s not including a desk in your company and the additional facilities and payroll-related expenses.

Of course, they could work part-time – but then you’ll need to rely on them to be available for you as and when you need them. Is that possible?

If you do have the skillset to look after your own website, do you have the time to do so? It’s an hour or so each week, but if there’s an issue that needs immediate attention, this could be another 2-4 hours or more. Can you afford to take time away from key business tasks to focus on the website at these times?

If you’ve answered no to these things, don’t worry. It’s okay that you’re busy. You have a lot of important tasks to complete every day as a business owner and it’s completely understandable. It’s good that you’re busy as it means your business is doing well.

There’s a better way to look at this. Companies like ours offer WordPress Care Plans. A Care Plan is a monthly service where we look after your website, keep it updated, carry out off-site backups of your data and many other services. They’re designed to give you complete peace of mind about your business website and allow you to focus on the more important tasks that you need to, every single day.

TIP: Think about what your or your employee’s time is worth to be available for at least 4 hours each month. Also, would any training be needed for these employees to be able to carry out WordPress maintenance tasks? If the total comes to more than $50 – $100, then you’ll be financially better off looking at a WordPress Care Plan for your business.

Don’t take risks with your website

As fun as it can be to race the fuel gauge when the red light is showing on your dashboard, you should never take the same risks with your website. There is always an automated piece of software or a determined hacker who is ready to pounce and make you their latest victim.

Throughout this guide, we’ve talked about the various risks and issues that can occur with your WordPress website and how to create an action plan and a disaster recovery strategy to ensure that you can mitigate these risks.

You may not have had an issue since your website launched, you may even be one of the lucky few that have never had a website issue, but what happens when it’s your first time?

Taking some time today to start getting your plan together and to know who to contact if something goes wrong is the first step that you can take in ensuring that your website has a great future.

We’ve got a few additional emails and tips coming your way over the next few days, so please look out for these in your inbox.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

June 7th, 2021|

Google My Business Listing

Backlinks are not what they used to be when it comes to Google My Business. Here is a little reminder of Local search ranking factors. As you can see, there is a lot to do which will impact more than netlinking to rank your Google My Business listing.

April 2nd, 2021|