5 Ways to Keep your Online Business Secure

I was recently inspired by a talk I listened to by Aaron Campbell, lead for the Core Security Team at WordPress. He inspired me to share some of the ways small businesses can protect their online business.

First off, let me be abundantly clear: Many companies are unaware of how much their business could be impacted by their lack of attention to security concerns. According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a successful network intrusion can have severe impacts, particularly if the compromise becomes public and sensitive information is exposed. Possible impacts include:

  • Temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information,
  • Disruption to regular operations,
  • Financial losses relating to restoring systems and files, and
  • Potential harm to an organization’s reputation.”

Security in the digital world is an ever changing landscape and if you are a business owner, you probably can’t afford to handle all of your security on your own. That being said, it’s okay to delegate some of these concerns to people and companies you can trust. If any of these tips are a little too advanced for you, then consider hiring someone (like us!) who can help you in this task.

In the meantime, here are five ways you can protect your online business from security vulnerabilities:

 

1. Choose a quality web host

One of the best ways to protect your online business is to choose a good web host. A reputable web hosting company will provide you with frequent backups of your data so you can restore it in case of an attack. They will also assist you with technical support, maintenance and security issues 24 hours a day. If you chose a backwoods hosting platform in order to save money, I recommend you think twice about the situation and pay the extra money. Most hosting companies are very affordable anyways so you won’t have to make a major investment.

 

2. Keep your website up-to-date

When was the last time your website was updated? Even if it still looks decent on a screen, you may need to update the software, frameworks, extensions, etc. that are driving your site. If you’re in a content management system like WordPress, you should update the WordPress core, plugins, and themes, on a regular basis. A website with plugins that are several years outdated can introduce all sorts of PHP vulnerabilities that you could easily avoid just by updating to the latest version in your WordPress dashboard. Internet technologies advance quickly, and when your site is running PHP, Javascript, CSS, HTML, and code from several third party sources (most wordpress installations have all of these), there are several technologies that may be advancing and your site could be getting left behind with outdated software that is prone to being hacked.

 

3. Be mindful of who has access to your workstation(s)

Does your office environment maintain good safety standards? Unattended devices, inactive user accounts, passwords that include the name of your child or favorite pet… these are all vulnerabilities that hackers can take advantage of in quick order. Maintaining a security conscientious mindset at the workplace will mean avoiding these common mistakes. Another common mistake is providing login information across unsecured networks (i.e. At your favorite coffee shop or hotel). Be sure to investigate to make sure these places have secure WI-FI routers because not everyone values your security like you do!

4. Take good care of information entrusted to you.

Are you an ecommerce business? Your customers entrust you with their information, and if you handle any kind of financial information at checkout, you should use encryption software to protect customers’ financial information. Additionally, you should employ a hosting provider who is PCI compliantThe Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies to companies of any size that accept credit card payments. If your company intends to accept card payment, and store, process and transmit cardholder data, you need to host your data securely with a PCI compliant hosting provider.

My hosting provider of choice is very good at security best practices and does this very well for my domains, and this is something I watch out for when I design websites with any kind of eCommerce functionality.

 

5. Get an SSL Certificate for your site

SSL Certificates provide secure, encrypted communications between a website and an internet browser. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the protocol which provides the encryption. SSL Certificates are typically installed on pages that require end-users to submit sensitive information over the internet like credit card details or passwords. Example pages include payment pages, online forms and login pages. My site has an SSL certificate, and I recommend it to my clients as well. There are different kinds of certificates, but you can get started for as low as a few dollars for a basic certificate.

Bonus tip: Play the long game

Ultimately, keeping your online business secure is playing the long game. The best practices of today may not work tomorrow. There is no way to be 100% secure in the digital world, and if you are not keeping up with best practices like the ones mentioned above, it will eventually catch up to you. That being said, if you keep your software updated and simply pay attention to potential security threats like poor passwords or a bad hosting environment, that will go a long way.

If you are looking for someone to handle your security concerns for you, or simply give you more advice on where to start, my company can perform this service for you at an affordable rate. Additionally, our monthly hosting plan comes with monthly backups and security checkups, as well as an initial audit for security best practices.

Ready to take action?

 

Calvin Lyman

Lyman Web Design LLC

LymanWebDesign.com

Office: (405)-696-7824

 

 

 

Why Hire a Professional Web Designer for your Small Business?

The Question:

“Why do I need a web designer?” If you are a small business owner who has built a DIY website for your business, then this may be a question you have asked yourself in the past. The answer, of course, depends on what you are trying to accomplish! If you are a highly motivated business owner who is looking to earn the maximum potential possible through your business website then you may need a professional to help you capitalize on the opportunities available to you.

The Benefits of Choosing a Professional Web Designer

 

A professional web designer who is worth their salt will keep several factors in mind as they design your site. Here are a few examples:
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • “Mobile First” (The mantra of web designers who understand the need for websites to be compatible for mobile devices)
  • Site Security (Are you and your users secure from hacking attempts?)
  • Maintainability (How long will your site design remain relevant and make use of current technology?
  • Web Standards
  • Performance
  • Lead Generation
  • e-Commerce solutions (when applicable)
  • Accessibility
  • … and much more!

Professional-Web-Designer-At-Busy-Desk
The benefit of hiring a web designer is that you can focus on running your business, and we can handle all of these aspects of your site design! A professional knows how to make your website perform quickly, get found on search engines, look good on any device, remain secure, and follow current web standards. A cookie-cutter DIY website service can help you with some of the basics, but can’t give you the unique look and functionality that a professional web designer can give you. Besides all this, it pays to have a professional on standby for your company’s emergency needs. Is the site down? Your web designer should be able to restore it from a backup. Do you need additional functionality like an e-commerce solution or something more advanced than your DIY solution can offer? Hire someone with expertise so you can get the job done with excellence.

Maintaining your Web Presence Long-Term

Once your site is designed, you also need someone who will maintain it for an affordable rate and who provides services like maintenance, security, and data storage. The hassle of having your website hacked and/or data compromised or lost. Being proactive about moving your hosting over to someone who can take good care of it may keep you out of a sticky situation months or even years down the line after you design the site.

Web design is an ever-changing industry. Not only for e-commerce or online based businesses, the web is an important marketing tool for any business. When people search for your website, what are they going to find?

What would it cost you? Receive a free quote!

-Calvin

Owner, Lyman Web Design LLC

Web Design/Hosting/Marketing Solutions for Small Businesses

Upcoming ebook: “Why Your Website Sucks”

I’m releasing a new eBook free to my subscribers! Here is a teaser snippet:

 

Introduction: 

…In this eBook, my advice will center on 11 traits I think are essential to your website’s success in 2016. What you choose to do with this information is up to you, but if your current online presence is lacking in any of these areas, I highly suggest that you take immediate action to remedy the situation. Still skeptical about getting your business a website? Chances are your business will benefit from an online presence. Did you know that over half of small business owners do not have a website or even measure the success of their online marketing efforts? This being the situation, you stand to gain a lot by securing a quality website that holds these traits.

If you are new to the web, I guarantee these tips will give you insight into some of the ways you can improve your website and drive customers to your business. If you are looking into getting a website, these instructions will spur your thinking and give you solid methods of success so you can get a leg up on your competitors and take advantage of the greatest marketing medium of all time.

“I was on their website for twenty minutes and I couldn’t find the contact page! I eventually gave up and went to their competitor’s website instead. It was user friendly, everything was intuitive and their contact page was easily accessible!” -Disgruntled Consumer

 

Don’t let your website be the one described by the disgruntled viewer in the quote above. Your website needs to be intuitive, easy to use, and accessible for users on various platforms and internet browsers. But how do you get there? What makes a bad website so awful? I’ll tell you:

 

  1. They don’t use a mobile responsive layout.

I will describe more specifics in the section on mobile first design, but for now, it will suffice for me to say that it is absolutely imperative that your website is optimized for viewing on a mobile device. Over half of internet users in 2016 use their mobile devices (e.g. iPhones, iPads, and various smart phones/tablets) to access the internet. While your website theme still needs a nice desktop layout, you will be missing out if your website is unable to compete with others that are optimized for mobile use.

Make key information easy to find:

Research conducted by HubSpot.com reveals that when asked about the most important factor in a website, over 75% of respondents ranked ease of finding the information as their top factor. If consumers pull up your website and see a smorgasbord of information to sift through, they may have trouble locating the landing page you want them to visit (i.e. contact form, registration form, etc.). When a potential customer arrives on your website, it is crucial that they be able to find the information you want them to have right away. If you are directing them to a landing page, then that landing page needs to be stripped of other links and distracting visuals so that your lead is pushed to take the only available action: click your call to action button. In terms of your overall website, the design you settle with should be wary of distracting visuals, unnecessary content, or any other confusing elements. Your goal is to help your user get to your content as quickly and easily as possible. This is the first step to leveraging your website to drive sales.
If you want to dig deeper in this area, Steve Krug’s groundbreaking book, Don’t Make Me Think, is a candid introduction to website usability and is presented in a very accessible format…

 

The full eBook, “Why Your Website Sucks” will be available soon for free! Just subscribe to my posts by email to get a free copy as soon as it is released. 

Increase Performance with PageSpeed Insights

Wow! I just sped up my website performance quite a bit using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. While I still have some work to do, I wanted to share with you some of the things I learned using this tool on my website. If you are a novice web developer, you will find these tips come in handy when you move to speed up the performance your website using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.

Remember that website performance is an important factor in determining your page rank in search engines. If you want to rank high, your visitors need to be able to get access to your content quickly. Long loading screens are harmful to your overall SEO scores.

Here are a few tricks I learned using this tool:

Performance tip #1: Load as few Javascript and CSS resources in the <head> of your website’s index file as possible.

This means inlining the crucial elements of your css and small scripts that you need to load on your home page (the same goes for other pages too). So if you have a script on your homepage that loads a slider showing featured posts, you may consider inlining the CSS for that element of the page if it isn’t too bulky. Too much inline CSS can slow down the page in the long run, but if you can get away with inlining small, crucial elements and make fewer requests to the database to load resources, then all the better.

If you must load several resources in the <head> of your web page, Google recommends Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources, if you cannot inline them.

Performance tip #2: Set an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources.

According to Google, “Setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources instructs the browser to load previously downloaded resources from local disk rather than over the network.”

This isn’t as big of a deal if your server response time is clocked in as being fairly quick, but if your theme is resource heavy, I recommend taking a look to see what you can do to implement a browser cache system on your website. In WordPress, this is as simple as pasting some PHP into your .htaccess file.

Performance tip #3: Optimize Images with an image compressor.

Still in the vein of loading resources, keep in mind that your user’s browser has to load each and every image placed on your web page. If your home page uses a hefty background image, as well as several photos for featured blog posts, or an hd photo of you and the crew on the sidebar, all of these resources can stack up. Run your images through an image compressor to cut down on unnecessary space. Oftentimes, you can “losslessly” compress the image and the finished result will be 40%-50% lighter, and still identical to the previous one. There are several plugins available to help you do this in WordPress, or you can just do it manually before you upload your files.

Conclusion:

If site performance is important to you (and it should be), these tips should help you dramatically increase your site’s performance if you have any problems with speed whatsoever.

What is SEO and Why Do I Need it?

There is much talk on the web these days about SEO. Looking to get clued in on this phenomenon? Here are some basics to help the novice get a grasp on this concept.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing web content for search engines to find and index it. An official definition according to Webopedia follows:

Webopedia-Screenshot-SEO

This means following several guidelines for writing content that include the way links are presented, the keywords used in the post, and the code of the website itself, among other things. Google says that this oftentimes simply means making small changes to parts of your website, although there are some websites that are non-SEO friendly to the core.

As you write content on the web, it’s important for you to think about how you present this content. As you write your content, you should keep two questions in the forefront of your mind. First, ask yourself: Am I presenting this material in the best way for my viewers to receive it? Second, you should ask: Am I presenting this material in the best way for search engines to recognize it as helpful for my viewers? You see, Google has bots that crawl the web indexing pages and deciding – based on complex algorithm – a page rank that determines where your website gets placed in search results when your potential visitors browse the web.

SEO in 2016

In 2016, there are many ways to get ahead with SEO. The method of choice for many web developers (myself included) is to use the Yoast plugin. If you are a WordPress user, I highly recommend this plugin as an intuitive tool that will keep you on track with SEO best practices in real time as you write content for your WordPress website. In fact, I use it for every single one of my blog posts and web pages including this post. I also recommend you go and read what Google has to say on the subject in their Search-Engine-Optimization Starter Guide.

I design all of my websites with SEO in mind. One of the biggest parts of this is setting my client up with a clean WordPress installation and a theme that utilizes SEO friendly code. I also ensure that the finished product looks great and performs well on mobile platforms, because this is a huge factor for SEO.

SEO goes far beyond this simple consideration. Page rank is also determined by proper use of the following: headings, formatting, URLs, meta description, linking, images, readability, keyword stuffing (this is very bad), and the use of fresh content, among many other things. While no one has access to Google’s complete algorithm, paying attention to what Google says about SEO can greatly aid in scoring high when a bot indexes your sites.

Creating web content that is in line with current SEO standards is truly an art form that takes practice and diligence. If you want to consistently rank at the top of search results, you need to get your household in order and continue to patiently work at it until you see results.

Are you a small business owner looking for quality web design work? Do you want your website to be primed for Google’s search index from day one? Consider shooting me a message through the contact form below to see what services I can offer you.

 

 

WordPress Website – 3 Benefits of Using One

To kick off my blog, I found it fitting to begin with a short introduction to WordPress, the content management system (CMS) I use to host all of my websites for clients (and personal use). Are you considering using a wordpress website for your business? What follows are three reasons why I love WordPress:

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a superior content management system that evolved from a simple blogging platform begun in 2003. Since then, it has become a tech giant and one of the best options for the web design needs of most individuals and companies. WordPress is the preferred hosting choice for millions of bloggers, as well as many name brand companies like TechCrunch and others. It’s myriad of plugins, widgets, and themes mean that WordPress is only limited by your imagination! Of course, not everything about the system is easy for the non-tech savvy business owner, but WordPress is a huge improvement over many other platforms available on the internet.

1. It’s so easy to use.

I simply love how easy WordPress is to use. WordPress offers so many tools for their users that make designing or using a WordPress website incredibly simple. Their dashboard is simple and intuitive, providing easy answers to a web designers every question as the design process moves along. Whenever I need to debug my installation and answers are not easily found, I can look at the WordPress documentation or support forum and usually find answers right away that solve my problems.

For users, the clean and simple design of most quality WordPress themes (yes, even many of the free ones!) lends itself to an easy, care free experience while they browse your site.

2. Search Engines Love a WordPress Website.

Another benefit of the clean and simple code behind WordPress is that you get a dynamic, updated website that follows the latest standards for sites on the web. The option to add meta tags and descriptions, as well as titles and keywords means that optimizing your WordPress website for search engine visibility is a piece of cake. I recommend Yoast SEO for your WordPress SEO needs.

3. Great flexibility with Plugins

So you have your new WordPress website set up. What now? Do you need to offer merchandise for sale on your website? There is a plugin for that. Need to publish a church directory that is only accessible to church members registered with your site? There is a plugin for that too! In fact, there are many plugins to choose from so if one isn’t working for you, you can delete it and try another one.

There are many benefits of using WordPress and these three only scratch the surface. For more information about why I use WordPress for my web designs, shoot me an email through my contact form.