Category Archives: Web Sites

Make Your Web Site Mobile Friendly for Google

Mobile Friendly

On Tuesday, April 24, Google will make an important change in the way it ranks web sites for search.

For at least a year, Google has been pushing web site owners to make their sites more mobile friendly. In fact, they’ve even noted in the search results which sites are optimized for mobile devices.

The biggest change of all in this new mobile front will come when sites are actually demoted in search results if Google deems them not mobile friendly.

Are you ready?

Google’s Mobile Friendly Test will tell you: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

mobile ready

WordPress Makes It Easy

If your web site is built with WordPress, you are probably all set.

Here are the things you need to check:

  • Are you running the latest version of WordPress? Update if necessary
  • Is your theme up to date?
  • Is your theme mobile ready? WordPress calls such themes “Responsive Themes.” They look good on either a desktop or mobile device. If you are planning to update the look of your site, now would be the perfect time to switch to a new responsive theme.

Jetpack to the Rescue

If you like you web site the way it is, but it isn’t mobile friendly, there is a quick and easy WordPress solution – a plugin called Jetpack

JetPack has lots of useful tools, but for the big Google re-ranking, the most important part is its built in Responsive Theme. It will leave your desktop theme as is while adding a new, mobile friendly theme that will be detected by mobile browsers (and Google!)

Jetpack’s Mobile theme. Instant and customizable lightweight responsive theme designed for phones and tablets.

To use Jetpack, you’ll need a WordPress.com account.

You don’t actually have to build a blog on WordPress.com to open an account. You just have to select Create Account Only at sign in.

Make a note of your WordPress.com user name and password, and return to your own WordPress powered web site.

Download and install the Jetpack theme, sign in with your WordPress.com credentials when prompted, activate the plugin, select Mobile Theme, and you are done.

Your site is now ready for Google’s Mobile Friendly search.

 

Google 2 Step Verification – Part 1

2 step pc and phone

Stay Safe with Google’s Two Step Verification

One of the handy things about Google’s apps is that they are “platform agnostic.” It doesn’t matter if you use Windows or a Mac, iOS or Android. Google Maps, GMail, Google Docs, Google Drive etc will work in similar ways on any computer.

This is a boon to those who use devices with different operating systems (Android smartphone and Windows desktop, for example) as well as to those who collaborate with people who may use entirely different devices.

Google’s mantra of “One Password, All of Google” adds greatly to the convenience.

If you have to edit a spreadsheet with someone using Windows 8, but you only have your iPhone handy – no problem. Open GMail, find the sheet in your Google Drive, and email it to your Window using friend.

This degree of interoperability and convenience, combined with 15 GB of free cloud storage, encourages users to store lots – lots and lots! – of information in Google apps.

But with convenience comes vulnerability. A stolen GMail password gives a hacker the keys to your kingdom: years worth of archived email, gigabytes of documents, your calendar, your contacts, even your YouTube account are all laid open.

Fortunately, Google’s Two Step Verification is as easy to set up and use as other Google products – and it will do a very good job of keeping your information safe.

ENABLING TWO STEP VERIFICATION

get started

Begin by going to https://www.google.com/landing/2step/

If you aren’t already signed in, sign in to your Google account.

About half way down the page, you’ll see a link to 2 Step Verification. Click  Set Up.

Remember, two step verification works with
* Something you know: your password – and
* Something you have: your phone

verification codes

To start, enter your phone number. You can then choose to receive your verification code via an SMS (text) message sent to your smartphone or through the Google Authenticator app.

In most other circumstances, SMS is simple and direct, without the need for an additional app, and it is the method many people choose.

(Google Authenticator is a downloadable iPhone or Android app that generates one-use verification codes. It is useful if you frequently find yourself outside the reach of cell service. If you later decide the method you selected isn’t right for you, just revisit the page and pick the other method. You can switch back and forth freely.)

Click Send Code and you’ll receive a 6 digit verification code via text message on your smartphone. Enter the code and click Verify.

registered computers

Once verified, you’ll probably want to check the Trust This Computer check box. (Of course, never do this on a public computer.) This will allow you to use any Google app or service from this computer without having to enter a verification code again. Like other 2 Step Verification settings, this can be changed later.

Click Next, then click Confirm.

Congratulations! You have enabled 2 Step Verification for your Google account,. Your private information, email account, and documents will be much safer.

Next: Using Google 2 Step Verification Part 2: Backup Phones, Backup Codes, Google Authenticator

Two Factor Authentication

two-factor-authentication

Using Two Factor Authentication

Strong passwords are the necessary first step in prottecting your data. But they are only the beginning.

If you want to ensure that you remain safe, even if your password is stolen, you’ll need a second defense: Two Factor Authentication.

The theory behind Two Factor (also sometimes called Two Step) Authentication is simple: a log in from an unknown or untrusted source requires two different types of verification

  • Something you know: your password
  • Something you possess: usually your phone

Two Factor Authentication Stops Hackers Before They Get Into Your Account

How does this protect you?

Consider this familiar scenario: the password for your email account was stolen in a data breach. Sadly, you had no idea this happened, and thousands of SPAM messages were sent out under your name in a matter of minutes.

Unless you had Two Factor Authentication enabled.

In that case, even if the hackers have your password, they cannot log in to your email account because they will not know the one time code sent only to your smartphone.

Hack attack foiled.

Setting Up Two Factor Authentication Is Easy

Setting up Two Factor Authentication isn’t difficult. Nor is it especially cumbersome to use.

First, find out if a particular app or service or web site you wish to use supports two factor authentication.

The Two Factor Auth List is a good place to start for a comprehensive overview.

Next, you need to enable Two Factor Authentication for the site. There are actually many possible ways to do this, but in general, the web site will have an option to enable two factor authentication, if it is available, somewhere in its security settings.

Finally, you will receive a text message with a one-time use code you will need to enter on the web site to prove you are you.

At this stage, you are usually able to designate the computer you are using as a trusted source – meaning you will not have to be verified again everytime you log in.

If you primarily use a desktop or notebook computer, congratulations – you are probably done.

If you use a smartphone or tablet, you’ll have to authenticate yourself within particular apps on those devices.

We’ll look at Google as a specific example next, to see how authentication works across platforms as well as how to use something called, “App Specific Passwords” on a mobile device.

Password Security

Passwords Passwords Passwords

It is time to get serious about your passwords.

The list of major hacks and attacks against retail chains, web sites, health care networks, and banks is long and troubling. You can’t do anything about their poor security, but you can take steps to protect yourself.

UNIQUE PASSWORDS
Don’t Reuse Passwords. You’ve heard this advice for years, and maybe you’ve been meaning to change that easy-to-crack but also easy-to-remember password that you use everywhere. But you just haven’t found the time.

Here’s the problem: maybe you used AOL email sometime in the distant past, but you switched years ago. However, you used your son’s name as your password with AOL. It was so easy to remember, you also used it at Amazon, at work, with Google, for eBay, for Yahoo, and for some web store you’ve completely forgotten about.

If that web store you’ve forgotten about is hacked, the hacker now has the password for your bank account. Or he can buy stuff on Amazon and charge it to you. He can log in to your email account and change your recovery email address to an email account he controls.

Because you used a simple password 10 years ago at some site whose name you can’t even recall, your personal information and your bank account are now at risk.

You may not be able to go back to every service you’ve used or abandoned and create secure passwords. But you can change your passwords for the services you use now.

STRONG PASSWORDS
Use Strong Passwords – this is also common advice.

Hackers sometimes use “brute force” attacks to steal passwords. They run a program designed to enter word after word into a password field. They also substitute common numbers or symbols in place of letters. For instance, “letter” might be spelled “l3tt3r” with “3” substituted for “e.”. Software can crack these passwords in minutes, if not seconds.

Strong passwords mix upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols in a nonsense phrase. The longer the password, the better. But it should be at least seven characters long.

2@13f6dg2?97V?N

That’s a strong password.

It is also impossible to remember, which is why everyone resists strong passwords.

Even if you manage to remember that one particular password – can you remember another, and another, and another … for all the sites you visit on the web?

PASSWORD MANAGERS
If you are worried about strangers, rather than co-workers or family, stealing your passwords, you can keep a password notebook by the computer. That might work, although the typing is cumbersome.

A better solution is a password manager.

Password Managers can securely encrypt and store your passwords and then fill them in on web sites when you need to log in. Although features vary from program to program, they usually also include a strong password generator.

Some password managers will work on your mobile devices as well as your desktop or notebook computer.

Some are free, some have a one time fee, and some require a yearly subscription. Many will offer different free and paid versions, depending on which features you want.

Both LastPass and 1Password are popular and easy to use. They are certainly worth a look if you want to increase your online security.

TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
The final step in securing your online identity is Two Factor Authentication.

This doesn’t protect your passwords – what it does is ensure that, if your password is stolen, a hacker still can’t access the account that you’ve enabled Two Factor Authentication for.

Here’s how it works: when you enable two factor authentication for a web site – let’s say Google – you are then required to enter not only a password, but a one-time code that will be sent to your cell phone. So even a hacker who has your password cannot log into your account.

We’ll look at how this works in more detail in another article.

Photo Credit: Ron Bennetts
Creative Commons License

Your Blog Is Your Internet Resume

resume

I read this interesting blog post by Brian Clark from copyblogger.com – called The Income Outlook for 2009

It’s a great read about how, when and why to monetize your blog.

Reading the article as well as a few comments I’ve received lately, jelled an idea I’ve had about blogging floating around in my head.

Everyone knows, or at least has heard that it is important to have a blog. Besides building relationships with your customers, there is a possibility that you might make a few bucks.

However, if you are a service company do you really want flashing banners distracting your potential customers? Is it worth the chance of making a few cents on a click and losing the client? Probably, no… unless you already have more clients than you know what to do with. (Not likely, is it?).

Leaving your blog open to comments, creates a dialog and helps build community. That’s great if you have a top 10 blog, but for the rest of us, that may be a great by-product, but shouldn’t be the reason to start a blog. Unless you are really great at networking you’ll feel let down by the lack of response.

Of course, writing is hard for most people, so the very nature of a blog is a little off-putting. But, as we continue to progress along the internet age and web 2.0 morphs into web 3.0 blogging is becoming more and more important for businesses, large and small.

I’ve been struck recently by the response to one of my recent blogs. It’s not very old — a relative new kid on the block. However, as I network and people start check me out, guess what? The first place they come is to the blog. And, unlike my website(s) that I’ve had up for years, people compliment the blog –and it has opened up the door to several new professional relationships. One potential client even called it a “property.” LOL — I love that term, makes me feel pretty darn important. Hope I don’t get too big for me britches.

My point is if you haven’t started a blog, here’s another reason. Consider it your internet résumé — no matter what your purpose for being online, a blog will get you noticed. Just a like a résumé put your best foot forward.

Photo by Olivier Charavel at http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliviercharavel/2631535001/

How To Build A Web Site For Your Business – Part 1

This is Part 1 of a Three Part Series on Starting Your Own Web Site.

Before we go any farther, let’s get a few definitions out of the way.

DOMAIN NAME

The Domain Name, as you probably know, is the name of your web site. For instance, Ghost Leg Media’s domain is ghostleg.com.

URL

URL stands for Universal Resource Locator. Just as your street, city, and state address on an envelope tells the post office where to deliver your mail, the URL defines your address on the internet. You’ll usually see the URL written out as something like http://www.websellerscircle.com/ In other words, it’s that name you type in your browser’s address bar.

PROTOCOL

You’ll run across the word “protocol” a lot when you discuss computers. A protocol is just the way one computer communicates with another. The Internet Protocol, for instance, is the way computers communicate on the internet, and that’s really all we need to know about that.

IP ADDRESS

In geek speak, IP stands for “Internet Protocol.” Your web site’s true IP address isn’t the domain name. It’s a series of numbers, like “72.14.207.99? That’s the IP address for Google. Whether you type 72.14.207.99 orwww.google.com into your browser’s address bar, you should be taken to the same place. A complex system known as Domain Name Servers (usually abbreviated as DNS) translates the human-readable name (like google.com) into the computer-readable numerical IP address (72.14.207.99).

REGISTRAR

SInce the internet requires every domain name to be unique, there needs to be some sort of central system to keep track of domains and to parcel out new ones. This service is performed by Registrars. When you want to buy a domain name, you go to a registrar like GoDaddy.com or Register.com or NetworkSolutions.com. They are accredited by ICANN to issue new domain names. By and large, all accredited Registrars offer roughly equivalent services. There is no benefit to using an expensive registrar.

WEB HOST

The server that hosts all your web pages is called a web host. That server may be in your broom closet or in Katmandu. It does not need to have the same operating system as your computer. Your computer will not be connected to it except when you are either viewing web pages in your browser or uploading pages via FTP.

FTP

Wait a minute – ft who now? FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it is just a series of commands that lets one computer (the web server) know that another computer (yours) would like to send it some data (files). Like pretty much everything else on the web, you don’t need to worry about knowing the technical details of how it works. You just need to know where to find an FTP program and what the ftp address is of your web site.

NAME SERVERS

One of your first tasks after registering a domain and contracting for web hosting is pointing the Name Servers to your web host’s computers. Your web host will tell you the correct Name Server addresses (which will usually look something like NS1.bluehost.com) You then take this information to your registrar and enter it into the Name Server form somewhere in your My Account area at your registrar’s site. Most web hosting companies have two or more name servers (as a precaution in case one is down). So you’ll probably have an NS2.whoever.com or NS3.whoever.com address as well as an NS1.whoever.com addreess.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

As you can see, none of this technical sounding stuff really requires any technical knowledge. IT administrators all over the world are sweating the small stuff so we don’t have to. Once you learn a few simple terms, you are ready to perform all the administrative tasks that precede going live with your new site.

Add On Domains and Parked Domains

HOW TO BUILD A WEB SITE FOR YOUR BUSINESS – PART 2

Not too long ago, when web storage space was still measured in MB instead of GB, each web site required its own web hosting plan. The plan might have cost anywhere from free to pretty darned expensive. But, whatever you paid, One Domain = One Account.

Now storage capacity is measured in terabytes and the cost is trivial. Hosting companies no longer compete by offering 100 MB of storage, or 500 MB, or even 5 GB. Instead, they offer unlimited domains.

This is a very good thing for internet entrepreneurs.

With a good hosting company, like BlueHost or HostGator, you can add as many domains as you need under just one account, for as little as $7.00 per month. (That sort of low rate will require a multi-year contract. If you are signing up for only one year, expect to pay about $10.00 per month.)

Of course, before you can point your new Add-on and Parked domains to your web hosting account, you’ll need to register them with a domain registrar like GoDaddy.com. This is an additional and entirely separate step. It is accomplished through the registrar, not the web host. Once that’s taken care of, you are ready to start.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT DOMAIN TYPES?

There are three different types of domains

  • Subdomains
  • Add-on Domains
  • Parked Domains

Each offers something different, and each one may be useful to an internet retailer. Here’s a breakdown.

SUBDOMAINS

Subdomains are a section of your original domain. If, for instance, your domain is called mywebsite.com, a subdomain’s URL would be subdomain.mywebsite.com

Subdomains are organized as folders under the root structure of you domain. If you look at your site with some sort of file manager, the subdomain will appear to be just another folder.

So why use a subdomain at all? Say you’ve added a forum and you want its name to be prominently featured and easy to remember. Promote the bulletin board to a subdomain. The subdomain would still be associated with your regular URL, but users would find it by typing in a URL such as forums.mywebsite.com

Most hosting plans offer unlimited subdomains.

ADD ON DOMAINS

An Add On Domain is a totally separate web site, complete with its own URL and files, hosted under the same account as the original domain. When sites like BlueHost offer Unlimited Domains, they are saying you can have as many different web sites or blogs as you can manage for just one monthly fee, instead of paying for a new hosting plan for each site. This can add up to a considerable savings, especially for people running something like BANS sites. You could have 5, 10, or 100 small affiliate-income generating sites for $7.00/month – total.

PARKED DOMAINS

Finally, Parked Domain point to an existing site. For instance – suppose people regularly mistype the URL for your web site. Maybe your business is called “Clover City Sells” and, when you say it, people hear “Clover City Sales” instead.

If even 5 visitors out of 100 mistype your URL and – instead of seeing your web site – see a page that says “Web Site Not Found,” it could be terrible for your business. What’s the solution? Register the second domain (clovercitysales) and park it. The parked domain’s visitors will automatically land on the CloverCitySells web site.

With a parked domain, two different domains (URLs) lead to one web site.

Again, the ability to host unlimited parked domains can be a real money saver. You can register common misspellings of your domain or you can register other domain extensions (like .net or .biz) to prevent competitors from grabbing them. The only extra expense is the few dollars per year you’ll spend on the domain registration. You won’t even need to spend time creating a web page to redirect your visitors.

Register With A Registrar But Host With A Web Host

HOW TO BUILD A WEB SITE FOR YOUR BUSINESS – PART 3

Web domain registrars are in a low-price competition with each other. The basic service they offer – registering your domain name – is not the sort of thing that builds high margin, repeat traffic. So, to keep the cost of domain registration low while still turning a profit, registrars will try to upsell other web services to new clients.

There is nothing shady or unethical about this. In fact, the upsells probably subsidize the extremely low cost we currently pay for domain registration. The problem is, registrars are usually not very good web hosts or email providers. The all-in-one packages they offer will hobble your business.

When you take the first step to getting a web site – be aware of the difference between a web host (the company that rents you server space for your web site) and the domain registrar (the company that makes sure your domain name is unique).

To get the job done right, these will be two different companies, doing two different jobs. It is a little bit more work for you at the start, but it will save you hours of work, and possibly hundreds of dollars, to get it right from the start.

REGISTRARS

GoDaddy.com is an excellent choice for registering your domain name. They offer low prices and reliable service. They will also offer you email accounts, web hosting, blogs, various privacy options for your domain registration, etc. Stay away from all the add ons. Just buy the $6.95 domain registration and move on to selecting a web host.

WEB HOSTING

There is an acronym for the services you want in a web host: LAMP. That stands for

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP

That configuration is ideal for most web sites because it gives you access to low cost/no cost server operating systems (Linux and Apache) to keep expenses down, while still offering database capabilities. So many web applications, like WordPress and Joomla, require PHP and MySQL that you are tying your hands behind your back if you host your site on servers that do not use them.

While there are hundreds of low cost web hosting companies around, BlueHost or HostGator have very good reputations. Both offer Linux servers with PHP and MySQL, both have Fantastico for one click installation of complicated programs like bulletin boards, blogs, and shopping carts, and both offer unlimited domains on one low priced account.

Don’t get wrong footed when you start out. Your investment in GoDaddy’s limited web and email programs will either hamstring your service or go to waste. As soon as your business begins to grow, you will dump them like a pair of old shoes.

12 Tips For Moving Your Web Site

Moving a web site, especially a well established web site with lots of links and good SEO, from one hosting company to another, can be tedious and time-consuming but it does not have to be difficult or nerve-wracking.

Some tasks are probably already part of your everyday maintenance. If you regularly police bad links and other errors, you are already ahead of the game.

Here are 12 steps for painlessly switching web hosts for a traditional web site, without losing visitors or search engine rankings:

TWELVE STEPS FOR A TROUBLE FREE MOVE

  1. Check your web site’s account with the hosting company. It should list the renewal date. You don’t want to put the move off until the last minute. If at all possible, give yourself anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to complete the move.
  2. Choose a new web hosting company and open an account with them while your old account is still active on the host you are leaving.
  3. Your new web host will send you a welcome letter with a temporary internet address, FTP instructions, email set up instructions, and Name Server addresses. You’ll need all this to get your files up on the new server. Test it and save it.
  4. Take a good look at the structure of your site. Is there anything you should clean up or change before the move? Fix errors, dead links, etc., that you find before you transfer the files.
  5. Back up your old web site. If your current web host uses C Panel, you will probably have a back up wizard that will zip your site and download it to your PC. Note that although you will have a choice between a full back up and a partial back up, you may not be able to restore your site on the new servers with the full back up.
  6. If you cannot use a back up wizad to back up your site, try downloading everything to your computer via FTP. Remember to recreate the directory structure just as it exists on your web site.
  7. Upload your files to the new web host, using the temporary address they sent you when you opened the account. If both web hosts have C Panel, you may be able to upload your back up and then restore it on the new site. If you can’t use the back up wizard, just FTP the files, taking care to recreate the directory structure exactly.
  8. Test the links on the new site (using the temporary URL to view it in our web browser).
  9. When you are confident that everything is working correctly, change your Name Servers to point to your new web host. This is done through your domain registrar (i.e., GoDaddy). If you access the old server’s Admin or Account areas (including C Panel) by typing in your domain name, you will be locked out after changing the name servers – so make sure you have cleaned up everything, including email, on the old web host before completing this step. (Check with your old web host and find out if you can get into your Admin area using an IP address other than your domain name.)
  10. You may be tempted at this point to delete your old account – but don’t! It can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for the new Name Server information to become universally available across the internet. While other gateways are updating your address, you do not want visitors – including Google – to find themselves in a black hole, with nothing to see but an error message saying that your site no longer exists. Protect your visitors and your search engine rankings by keeping your old site alive just a little longer.
  11. Inform everyone that your site is moving. Put a notice on the site. If you send out newsletters, tell your subscribers. Warn visitors that they may see the occasional glitch and ask for their patience. Set up your email through your new hosting service, if you will use their POP email. Check and double check the links on the new site. Make sure there are no missing files. Ping your new address to test it.
  12. Carefully monitor traffic that is still going to your old web site. It should drop to almost zero by day 3, while traffic at your new web host should climb to your old levels. Between 4 and 5 days after you changed the Name Servers, cancel your old account.

Congratulations! You have officially moved to your new home, and you haven’t left anything or anyone important behind. In fact, if you hadn’t told them, most visitors probably wouldn’t even have noticed the move.

Make Your Headlines Clear – Not Clever – If You Want To Be Read

The temptation to write clever headlines, captions, titles, and text can be hard to resist. In face-to-face situations, the rewards for being witty or funny or erudite are real.

But online – the cost of being clever is lost readers and lost sales.

Today, Harry of Men With Pens reviewed Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Everything he said about web design applies equally to web writing.

It can’t be said often enough.

Online readers don’t read – they skim.

The more time a reader spends trying to decipher your puns, the less likely they are to find your call to action. Or to even realize the call to action exists.

When you have the choice between a boring headline that explains what a blog post or newsletter is about and a clever one whose meaning becomes clear only after you’ve read a paragraph or two – choose the boring headline.

DON’T MAKE ME WORK

Readers already feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

A subject line that hints rather than explains will be deleted or set aside for “later” (a time that never comes). A deceptive “Look At The Train Wreck!” style headline may work once or twice – until annoyed readers consign you to the SPAM filter.

An effective headline or subject line spells out the benefits of reading the newsletter or blog post.

Blogs and newsletters are gatherers of information. They collect and broadcast what we need to know in small, easy to use chunks.

Respect your readers by telling them, clearly and concisely, exactly what you have to offer. Write a simple, clear headline and then follow through by writing articles that fulfill the promise of the headline.

THINK LIKE A BILLBOARD

Harry, of Men With Pens, uses the analogy of a billboard. While cars speed by at 60 MPH, there is no room for subtlty. You need to get the message across fast.

Your headline is your billboard – use it to snag the attention of speeding readers.