A Simplified Guide To Help You Become Visible And Establish Yourself In The Local Search Results
It’s Friday night, you look in the fridge… EMPTY! “Ah-ha,” you think as you have a lightbulb moment. Reaching for your phone you start to Google…
“The tastiest takeaways near me”
Well, this is where small businesses like you could be missing out if you haven’t optimised your content for Google 3-Pack SEO!
Google is notorious for constantly tweaking the way they show results to users. But the Google 3-pack update doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
That’s why in this blog I want to share with you nine ways you can optimise your Google 3-pack SEO, so you have a fighting chance of showing up. Ready to get learning and boost your reach?
What Actually is Google 3-Pack?
You’ve probably noticed the three Maps results that pop up when you conduct a local search on your smartphone or desktop, right?
Well, this is Google 3-pack working its magic.
For example, if you search “takeaways near me”, Google 3-Pack displays three of the most relevant and accurate results local to you. But results are only shown if you’re a highly optimised, relevant, trustworthy business.
We know this because, in December 2021, Google 3-Pack saw a major update where they rebalanced three of its key ranking factors. Focusing on proximity, relevance, and prominence.
This leads me to my next point.
How Can You Improve Your Google 3-Pack SEO?
Here’s the thing…
You can’t optimise specifically for Google 3-Pack.
That’s because Google 3-Pack is location-dependent, so it’s ultimately based upon where your ideal client is searching from.
But what you CAN do is optimise your web presence in a way that’ll increase your chances of showing up and being number one. So when your ideal client does happen to be in the area searching for a business like yours, your name is there in shining lights ready for business.
How to Optimise Your Google Business Profile
1. Fill in every section of your profile
It’s so easy to pass by a section because you don’t have the relevant information to hand. But I’m telling you, filling out every section is vital to prove to Google you’re a relevant business.
2. Ask for customer reviews and respond within 24 hours
The more you respond to feedback, the more this shows Google you’re active, ready to show up, and are a valuable member of the community. Plus it also shows your audience you care about your customer service.
3. Optimise the business description and use keywords that are likely to be searched for
Never pass up the opportunity to strengthen your Google 3-pack SEO. What terms are people using when they search for a business like yours?
For example, for me, it’s terms like ‘WordPress Developer’, ‘WordPress Web Design’ or ‘Canberra-based Web Developer.’
4. Encourage people to ask questions and respond promptly
Like above, it shows Google you’re a valuable member of the community and ready to reach out to your customers.
5. Upload new photos weekly if possible
Utilising every form of content Google offers is a great way to increase your chances of coming up trumps when using Google 3-pack.
6. Make sure your content is accurate and consistent
When Google crawls your content, it takes note of how consistent your business is. In other words, the more accurate your messaging is, the more likely you’re seen as trustworthy.
7. Try to get locally relevant backlinks
Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another. If someone links to your site, then you have a backlink from them. It basically says to Google your content is valuable and worth reading.
8. Build a strong presence on social media
Although social media doesn’t affect your Google 3-pack SEO directly, it can help with your organic rankings. You can leverage social media to direct traffic to your website and boost visibility.
9. Improve your websites user experience
A huge part of SEO is how your website actually works when a user is navigating it. The easier it is to use and the more relevant the content, the more likely you are to rank higher.
And that’s a wrap!
I really hope this guide has helped simplify things down for you and taught you a few simple tips you can leverage to help boost your Google 3-pack SEO.
If you have questions about your Google Business Profile or need some help setting it up for your business, get in touch HERE. I’d be more than happy to help you out and give you some trustworthy, professional advice.
There’s No ‘Right’ Way To Prevent A WordPress Attack, But There Are Some Steps That Will Make It Much Less Likely
Did you know, according to Manaferra, the number of WordPress websites in 2022 was a staggering 835 million?
That’s insane, right!
And because of its ever-growing popularity, WordPress has become a prime target for hackers.
That’s why now it’s more important than EVER to think about your WordPress website security.
In this blog, I want to share with you the two biggest reasons why WordPress website security gets compromised. And how YOU can put effective measures in place to make sure you’re not in the firing line for a malicious attack.
How And Why Do Hacks Happen?
When you’re a small business, it’s common to think you’re not are at risk of being hacked –
“Why would I get hacked? I’m a small fish in a big sea.”
But for that EXACT same reason, you’re more vulnerable to attackers.
Let’s think about it like this: Your defenses are down. You’re unprepared. And you’re vulnerable to a break-in. If you were a novice cyber hacker, why wouldn’t you attack? It’s almost set up to make the job as easy as possible.
And it’s not just about money either.
Each hacker has a different motive to hack a website.
Some are beginners who are learning to exploit less secure sites. Some have malicious intentions like distributing malware or using your site to attack other websites. And others just like to spam the internet for fun!
STORYTIME:The first hacked site I fixed was hacked from enjoyment. I looked up their email and found out there’s such thing as a ‘hackers scoreboard’. For hackers who compete against each other to break records! 🤯
What Are The Most Effective Measures You Can Put in Place?
1. Your Web Hosting
Web hosting services work by maintaining stable and secure storage spaces where you can ‘host’ your website.
Your WordPress website security might be more vulnerable if you have a shared hosting plan.
Shared hosting is where multiple websites are hosted on one server. For example, like putting your jacket in a paid cloakroom.
Hackers can potentially use other sites on the same server to gain access to yours. Just like a person could easily pick up your jacket when ‘looking’ for theirs.
When choosing a hosting provider, make sure to check what security measures they have, how they monitor their server network, and how they respond to any security breaches.
Dedicated hosting is the most secure option but that comes with a hefty price tag.
This statement alone shows the importance of updating your website.
Using an outdated plugin or theme can make your site extremely vulnerable. Because many of these tools are created as open-source software programs, meaning their code is easily accessible and therefore…
Plugin developers are constantly working on their plugins not only releasing new features but patching potential security breaches to protect your website from being hacked.
So yes, this is your reminder to always make sure your content management system, plugins, themes, and any scripts you’ve installed are up-to-date.
How Do I Secure My Website If I’m Not Techy?
So you’re reading this thinking –
“Sure, this is all good info. But how do I actually make it happen?”
Then look no further, my friends! If you haven’t got a tech expert you go to already, I encourage you to consider my website maintenance packages.
I created them especially to keep your WordPress website security up to date and as reliable as can be. So your websites are MUCH less likely to encounter any of those pesky hackers.
If you are looking at self-maintenance and hosting, get in touch.
I’d be happy to guide you on your way and give you any advice you might need.
A Guide To Shed Light on What Google Has In-Store and How You Can Prepare For The Introduction of Google Analytics 4
📣 Have you heard the BIG news, my friends?!
On 1 July 2023, Google Universal Analytics will STOP processing new hits and make way for the new kid on the block.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
You might be thinking… “2023! That’s ages away.”
But if you’re still relying on Universal Analytics and want a smooth transition to Google Analytics 4, then you’d better get a move on.
Why do you ask?
Because it takes time to collect data. Especially if you’re starting from the bottom up. If you’re proactive and start recording data now, you won’t have to start from scratch next year and that’s huge.
Read below to see how you can get started and make your transition as smooth as butter.
How Do Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 compare?
Now, let’s go back to basics for a minute.
Google Analytics is a tool that is used by almost 30 million websites in an effort to understand user behaviour and create an optimal user experience.
Google Universal Analytics is a version of Google Analytics that was created in 2012 to set a new standard for how user data is collected and organised. Its main job was to provide new tracking codes for websites and features that can more accurately measure user behaviour.
GA4 is not an upgrade to Google Universal Analytics, but actually a different version of Google Analytics that works on event-driven-based models.
Events are triggered as users interact with your site or app. For example, someone visiting your page or clicking a button to perform an action. You simply create an event for your chosen activity, add the parameters to describe the event, and let GA4 work its magic.
What Does This Mean For Your Data?
Well, it means you can continue to use and collect new data in your Universal Analytics properties until 1 July 2023.
But after the cut-off date, your Google Universal Analytics properties will become read-only.
In other words, you’ll still be able to access the data, export it, and make configuration changes. But from July onwards, there’s no further data collection. So it’s best to try and gather as much information as possible until July 1st so you’re not left in the dark.
Also, if you haven’t gotten up and running with GA4, I recommend starting NOW.
This gives you time to get used to the new software and start collecting data before transferring over completely.
How Should You Prepare For The Big Move?
Like all relocations, it’s best to get organised and familiar before you dive in
Here are 4 tips I highly recommend to get started and feel confident about the move:
Document all your existing tracking in Google Universal Analytics
Take a step back, look at your business model, and think strategically about what you need to measure to get the best results
Plan out your event naming classification in Google Analytics 4 and take advantage of their new structure
Look into training for yourself and any other people you work with so you can get the most out of GA4
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see the new innovative benefits GA4 will provide in today’s mobile-optimised environment. And while Universal Analytics will continue to be available to users, it’s going to be imperative for both to be set up and run parallel to get the most out of the experience.
I hope this blog has given you a better understanding of what’s coming on July 1st, 2023 and shed some light on what you can do to get ahead in time for the deadline!
What do you think of the new announcement?
If you have questions or want some support and professional advice, get in contact now. I’m always happy to help. 💌
They’re both super well-known platforms and power MILLIONS of websites each. But both have major differences that may or may not work for you depending on what you’re looking for. So, which one’s for you?
Well, that’s a complicated question.
The best platform for you comes down to what you *really* need, so it’s important to understand what they offer before making a decision.
In this blog, I’m going to give you the low down of each platform so you can make an informed choice about which one is best for you and your company to create your own custom website. Ready to start the comparison?
Then let’s begin!
1. Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is the process of your website gaining visibility in search engine results pages.
Squarespace has SEO tools inbuilt so it saves the process of learning how it all works, BUT you don’t get anywhere near the level of optimisation available from WordPress.
Being self-hosted, WordPress gives you full control over your SEOsetup. And with a wide array of plugins, you can do almost anything you need for SEO. Including being able to determine your site speed with the freedom to choose your own hosting provider.
Squarespace can be expanded if you have coding knowledge. But compared to WordPress, you’re still limited with what you can do.
2. Cyber Security
Due to Squarespace being self-hosted, your website’s security is the responsibility of the company.
So for those of you who want to set up your site and have minimal maintenance, Squarespace is for you!
WordPress is a different story…
How secure your website is, comes down to how well your site is maintained. One of the BIGGEST reasons WordPress websites get hacked is because of out-of-date plugins.
Regular updates are a must! But that’s not the only thing you need to think about when it comes to WordPress security. The following also need to be considered:
Installing security plugins
Using a content delivery network
Choosing a reputable host
TOP TIP: Remember to take regular backups of your site, so if something does go wrong, you’ll be able to restore your website quickly.
3. Pricing and Subscriptions
It’s that classic question: Which one’s cheaper?
Well, did you know WordPress.org is free?
However, to have a website you need to invest in hosting and a domain yourself. Domains are generally around 15 to 20 AUD per year, and hosting can be from as little as 2 AUD a month.
But it can vary greatly depending on which company you choose to go with.
While Squarespace has a very clear pricing plan.
Although not the cheapest, it’s paid monthly or annually and their rates start from around 16 AUD a month. So it’s easy to see how much it will *actually* cost per year to run your site.
4. Design and Flexibility
WordPress and Squarespace have a HUGE variety of themes available both paid and free.
Squarespace falls short with its flexibility.
Sure, Squarespace templates are beautiful, but you also run the risk of your website looking like it’s just come off the shelf. Lacking its own originality and flare.
While WordPress has the added option of custom design.
Through coding, access to plugins (software add-ons that allow for customisation of your site), and its virtually unlimited options, you can create your own custom website that’s truly one of a kind.
Squarespace offers a practical and easy online shopping setup.
You can easily insert a product page, control your inventory, add product variations, AND manage shipping options.
However, it can be costly, with an increased eCommerce subscription and commission on sales through the site.
While with WordPress, you can create your own custom website and turn it into an eCommerce store with the click of a button. Well… You need to install a free plugin such as WooCommerce, but it’s super easy!
At first, WooCommerce might be difficult to navigate (if not a little overwhelming).
But if you can spare a bit of time and figure it out, it’s a powerful, customisable open-source platform that offers even MORE functionality than Squarespace.
(AND more than Shopify, but that’s a blog for another day 😉)
6. Ownership of Content
So, who owns what and what can you actually do with your content?
When you set up a website with WordPress, you’re in control of your data.
Meaning it belongs to you and only you! Content that you put on your website can be exported and used anywhere without worry of interference.
A Squarespace site is at the mercy of Squarespace gods!
They’re the middle man and you don’t technically own your site. So, if you set up a Squarespace site, be prepared for the eye-watering possibility of losing ALL your content.
NOTE: It is possible to download Squarespace content if you’re tech-savvy and not afraid of a manual task.
7. Customer Support
When you’re with Squarespace or WordPress, you’ll NEVER feel alone.
With every subscription they offer, Squarespace comes with dedicated personal email support, live chat, and a HUGE array of tutorials on hand to help you with any questions.
While WordPress has a big community of resources and tutorials.
And although WordPress doesn’t have a specific support line, they DO have support for each theme, plugin, and builder.
The downside is that you need to know who and where to ask for help, which is where it can get a bit technical.
8. The Verdict
Now, I want you to ask yourself a question.
Rather than focusing on what website you want now, ask yourself this:
“What kind of website do I want 5 years from now?”
If you have minimal needs and crave a website you can ‘lock up and leave’ then Squarespace is going to be the platform for you. But if you want to create your own custom website and have big plans for expansions and development, then WordPress is going to be your best bet.
Now tell me, are you team WordPress or team Squarespace?
If you’re sitting there thinking, “I still don’t know!” or need help deciding whether WordPress is for you, then don’t worry. There are people out there who can give you professional, trustworthy advice… Like me! 😉
Attention Australian Business Owners! Did you hear the news? As of 24th March 2022 you can register for .au domain names.
.au is a brand new domain extension available to any individual, business or organisation that has a connection to Australia. So if you own yummytacos.com.au you can register for yummytacos.au.
.au domains are being marketed as short, sweet, memorable and Australian. Which is great, but what’s more important to me personally is securing a domain that protects my business and brand.
Now I’m sure you’ve got the same questions I had, so I’ve laid out some answers below.
Am I eligible for a .au domain?
If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident or have a business/organisation registered in Australia, then yes.
The auDA website state the only requirement to register for a .au is…
A Person applying for a licence in the .au direct namespace must have an Australian presence and.au direct domain names will be allocated according to the Priority allocation process set out in the .au Direct Priority Rules.
Meaning it’s available to more people. The other domain extensions have more requirements, for example to register a .com.au domain you need to be a registered business or company and your domain needs to be directly related to your business.
You can read the all the .au domains’ eligibility requirements here.
Do I need to buy a .au domain?
Nope you don’t, but I would suggest you seriously consider it. If you don’t secure it for yourself then you run the risk of someone else grabbing it. I don’t know about you but I’d be pretty annoyed if someone else bought my domain and started stealing a chunk of my online traffic.
Can I keep my existing domain if I purchase a .au?
Yes you can, and I would recommend you hold onto it as well.
How do I register for a .au domain?
You will have 6 months to register for Priority Status from 24 March 2022 to 20 September 2022. During this period anyone can apply for the .au domain at the end of that period if you are the only register then it is yours. In the event of multiple people registering for the same domain auDA has a full Priority Allocation Process outlined (or read the next question 😉 ).
There are a number of online providers you can register through and prices will vary, I would recommend either of the following two.
If you already have your domains registered with either of these providers, the next time you login you will likely be prompted to register your interest.
When you register for your domain you will need a Priority Register Token that you can get from here.
What if someone else wants the same domain as me?
There are 3 potential scenarios on how this can play out.
First you need to know the difference between Category 1 and Category 2 applicants.
Category 1: Your domain was registered BEFORE the Priority Status cut-off date of 4 February 2018.
Category 2: Your domain was registered AFTER the Priority Status cut off date of 4 February 2018.
So the 3 potential scenarios…
1. There are both Category 1 and Category 2 applicants
This is simple, Category 1 applicants have priority and will be allocated the domain over Category 2.
Sally bought yummytacos.com.au on 1 January 2015
Bob bought yummytacos.net.au on 1 January 2021
Sally will have priority to register for yummytacos.au as she purchased her domain before 4 February 2018.
2. There are multiple Category 1 applicants
This is where it gets complex, if multiple Category 1 applicants register then they must agree amongst themselves who gets it. If they cannot come to an agreement then the domain will remain unregistered until an agreement has been made.
Sally bought yummytacos.com.au on 1 January 2015
Bob bought yummytacos.net.au on 1 January 2016
Sally and Bob will need to negotiate amongst themselves about who will register the .au domain. If they cannot come to an agreement then the .au will stay unregistered. Every year they will need to renew their application until there is only a single application.
3. There are multiple Category 2 applicants
This is again straight forward, if multiple Category 2 applicants register then it will be allocated to whoever registered their domain first.
Sally bought yummytacos.com.au on 1 January 2021
Bob bought yummytacos.net.au on 2 January 2021
Sally will be allocated yummytacos.au as her domain was registered before Bob’s.
It’s a question I asked myself when I first started, and if I’m being honest I agonised over it for hours, days… weeks! It seems like such a simple question… but it’s not. There are so many different factors to consider when choosing the right domain extension for your business.
Now looking at my domain I clearly went with .com.au, but it wasn’t my first choice. I actually juuuust missed out on the .com version… but I’m not going to go into that now, it’s a long story I’ll save for another time.
Everyone you speak to will have a different opinion on whether you should be using .com or .com.au for your Australian based business. But it really does depend on you, your business and your business goals.
Before we dive into that we should look at exactly what .com and .com.au are, so let’s start there!
What is .com and .com.au?
.com is a TLD (Top Level Domain) and it’s the most widely recognised domain extension. It was first added in 1985 and it is derived from the word ‘commercial’. This domain extension is one of the original TLDs, the others are .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org and .int.
.com.au is a ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) and is allocated for Australian businesses. There are some rules that apply to owning a .com.au domain. But generally speaking, as long as you have an ABN (Australian Business Number) you can apply for a .com.au for 1-5 years.
Ok so now that we know the difference between them, it’s time to start thinking about what option is best suited for your business.
I’ve condensed it down to 4 important factors for you to consider when choosing your domain. They are; where your business and target market are located, if you have plans to scale internationally, is it available to buy and what your budget is.
Where is your business based and where is your target market located?
If you answered Australia to that, then that’s the first sign you should be using a .com.au domain, this is for two reasons:
Trust and Familiarity
Using .com.au immediately identifies you as an Australian business. I have seen countless discussions in business groups with people saying that when they see .com.au it instils a sense of trust. Not only that, but more and more now people are wanting to support local business, this immediately identifies you as an Australian business as you can’t actually own a .com.au domain without an ABN.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
As mentioned above .com.au is a ccTLD, and that provides an extra layer of information for search engines to use as a ranking factor for your website. For example, if you are in Ireland and you search for ‘best hairdresser in Dublin’ it is highly unlikely you will see any results with a .com.au domain. Google has crawled through all websites and has determined that a hairdresser in Australia with a .com.au domain is not a relevant search result for someone in Dublin, Ireland looking for a hairdresser. Since you need an ABN to register a .com.au, search engines can be confident that the only people using .com.au domains are Australian businesses.
Do you currently or in the future offer your services globally?
If the answer is yes, then you should seriously be considering .com.
We covered earlier that it is unlikely for a .com.au domain to be found in another country, .com being one of the original TLDs has a huge amount of power worldwide and has a higher chance of appearing in search engines results worldwide.
Is .com available?
Given its popularity, it is harder to find .com domains that are available to purchase. If you have decided on your business name and you search for the .com and it is not available, well then I guess your decision has been made for you.
You can easily search for domain availability online, my preferred website is GoDaddy to purchase domains and they have an easy Domain Availability Search.
What is your budget?
There are a lot of people out there who make a lot of money from buying and selling domains. To give you an idea of how much money I’m talking about, just while writing this blog post I went to Google Domains and searched for prettywebsites.com
I know what you’re thinking though why would you pay $5000 for a domain. Two words (or acronyms) SEO and ROI.
If someone went to Google and searched ‘pretty website’, there is a high chance your website would appear on page one of the search results.
That little SEO boost you got, all you would need to do is sell 1-2 websites to make back the investment.
Now let’s search for the .com.au variation of this.
Having a fast website is crucial to the success of your website. It impacts user experience, search engine optimisation and conversion rate.
How annoying is it when you visit a website and you sit there staring at a blank screen waiting for it to load? Poor user experience is a big no-no with websites. Google did a study in 2017 that found that as page load time went from 1 second to 3 seconds, the bounce rate increased by 32%!
Following on from that, Google have stated on their website that speed is now a ranking factor for search engine optimisation. I don’t care how amazing your website is, Google have literally said they aren’t going to be sending people your way if your website is too slow.
Slow websites also have an impact on conversion rate and this doesn’t only apply to small businesses. The BBC reported that for every extra second that it took their website to load they were losing 10% of their traffic!
Okay, I’ve made my point, we can all agree that speed matters. But the thing is most people are not aware of what the speed of their website is, or how they can improve. I’m here to change that with my top 5 tips on how to increase website speed.
Who doesn’t want to spruce up their website with nice pictures to look at, it would get a bit boring if it was only text.
Yet, one of the biggest causes of a slow website is images. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them (I mean I use them), it just means you need to be smart about what you use.
Optimisation is key, I optimise EVERYTHING before upload, those KBS add up. An example of this was a previous client I had who hired me to speed up her website, one of the first things I looked at was the images. She didn’t have a lot on her website but the files were huge!
By following a few simple steps I was able to reduce the image size from 40MB to 3.4MB… that was only 20 images! Want to know the steps I used to optimise the images for her website? Read the steps outlined below.
Tips for Image Optimisation
Crop to correct dimensions If you want to load up a fabulous photo of yourself to put on your about page, and it’s going to be 400×600 pixels. Please tell me why you would upload an image that is 2000×3000 pixels? That’s a whole lot of pixels for no reason. I use Resize Image which is a free Windows App, but you can use whatever software you’re comfortable with. Some free online options are Canva, or https://resizeimage.net/
Run through TinyPNG Once your image is cropped to the correct dimensions you want to give it a little boost by compressing the image. Enter TinyPNG. TinyPNG compresses your image without losing the Image Quality.
BONUS: Give the image file an SEO friendly name While this has no effect on your site speed it’s an important step you should take when uploading images to your website. Make sure you are naming all images with optimised titles before upload. For example, if you are uploading an image of a pink dress rather than keep the image file as IMG_444.jpg you want to call it exactly what it is pink-dress.jpg
Use a Good Web Host
Cheap hosting is the best option for my website performance… said no one ever. I get it, $1/month hosting sounds pretty amazing right? But for what you save in money you are losing in site performance, I’m sure there are exceptions to this… I mean I don’t know any but if you do send them my way, please.
See below for examples of real client sites before and after migrating their website to a better hosting provider.
What’s a good web host? Well, I love and use Cloudways and I recommend them to everyone. I don’t want this to turn into an ‘I love Cloudways‘ post, but honestly, they’re great.
They keep my website and my client’s websites safe, secure, speedy and as an added bonus their support is top-notch!
Install a Caching/Speed Plugin
Cache is the process of storing temporary data for a website, browser, app etc. This is important for websites because rather than loading a page fresh for every time someone new visits your website, caching skips that step and will show visitors a ‘copy’ of a previously loaded screen and as such reduces the load time for a visitor.
Caching plugins are powerful, they give you the ability to control dozens of different settings and as each website is different, each website needs to have different settings configured for it.
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) speeds up the delivery of content to a website visitor, by using a network of geographically distributed servers. What this means is that if your host server is located in Sydney, Australia and someone is accessing it from the US, rather than the data travelling all the way from Sydney, a CDN can deliver that data from somewhere closer in the US.
CDNs are not only good for site speed, they are also an extra layer of security for your website. My preferred CDN is Cloudflare, they have both free and paid plans available.
Regularly check your website
Websites need ongoing maintenance and if you follow the steps above you’re off to a good start. However, it’s worth your time to run your website through tools such as GT Metrix and Page Speed Insights so you can see how your website is performing and where it can be improved.
Having a fast website is crucial to your visitor’s user experience, search engine optimisation and of course conversion rate. Does your site need speeding up? I offer Site Speed Audits to get you started, or if you’re looking for ongoing site management check out my WordPress Care Plans.
You’ve got your flashy new website, you’ve hit the publish button, and you let it go off into the big World Wide Web. It’s an exciting time… but that’s not the end of the story.
Many people are not aware that there are ongoing costs involved with owning a website.
Think of a website like a pot plant. If you’ve ever bought a plant, you know that it needs to be cared for. You need to water it regularly, keep bugs away and make sure it’s in a safe environment to flourish. A website is much the same, you need to update plugins, themes and core regularly, you need to run security checks to prevent the website from being hacked and you need to keep it in a fast secure environment. Your website needs to be properly cared for so that it can represent your business in the best light possible.
Do you want to be a bad plant/website parent? No!
Plant analogy aside, I’ve listed 5 reasons below as to why you need to give your website regular maintenance.
1. Hacked website? No thanks!
The number one reason to maintain your website is to decrease the chance of your website being hacked. Not having an up to date website is one of the main reasons websites get hacked. This includes updating your plugins, themes and core. On top of that regular security scans are vital to identifying any potential risks to your website. When looking for a maintenance plan it’s important to check they offer security scans and regular updates.
2. Google will be your best friend
Google loves fresh content, it loves safe websites, it loves fast websites. Regular maintenance of your website means you can keep it up to date and keep it safe, and that will keep Google happy. As a business owner, it is so important to keep a good relationship with Google, if you neglect your website and worse comes to worst Google can, and will, blacklist you.
3. Keep customers, don’t scare them away!
Ever been to a website and it’s slow to load, pictures aren’t appearing, there are broken links and suddenly you’re on a 404 error page. Yikes. Not pretty! Website maintenance means you can avoid these scenarios and keep your customers on your website rather than having them running for the hills.
4. Your website will never disappear!
Well, it’s unlikely and if it does it won’t be permanent. Regular website backups are a vital part of choosing a website maintenance plan. On the off chance that something does happen to your website; it gets hacked or your content gets deleted. Regular backups mean that if the worse does happen then you can restore your website pronto!
5. Value for money
When you think about website maintenance do you cringe? Does it take up way too much of your time? Time, that you could be spending running your business. By purchasing a website maintenance plan you are handing the reins over to an expert. Their job is to look after your website, keep it safe, keep it running smoothly AND even better if something does go wrong you know it’s in safe hands!
Have I convinced you? Website maintenance is such an important (if not the most important) part of having a website.
If you’re sitting there thinking “Where the hell do I start?!?!” don’t worry, there are people out there who can look after your site for you… like me!
The Domain Name is “www.shannonpayne.com.au” and the Path is “/contact” The Domain Name is how a browser connects to the server, it is your unique address. The Path is what leads a visitor to a certain page stored within the server.
For example if you were to mistype the Path: www.shannonpayne.com.au/conact this would connect to the server however as the page “conact” does not exist this is when you would get a 404 Error Page Not Found message.
On the other hand if you were to mistype the domain name: www.shannonayne.com.au/contact you would get a broken link or you might even end up on a completely different website.
Mistyped Domain Name = broken link or different website Mistyped Path = 404 page
Asides from accidental typos when trying to visit a website, sometimes you can unintentionally click on a broken link. This could be due to a typo on the website itself, or a discontinued product or a page that was once deleted.
By clicking on these broken links, again you will be redirected to the 404 page for that website.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “why don’t you remove all broken links” or “just be careful when typing in a URL”, and yes I agree 100% that should be done, and it’s something that most good web developers should be doing. However at times there can be links that are missed, another website might be linking to a blog post on your website that is now deleted and sometimes it just comes down to human error.
The point is, a 404 page is important and that’s why you should be taking advantage of the prime real estate it offers.
Enter “Custom 404 Page”
A Custom 404 Page is just that, it’s a 404 page that has been customised for your website.Instead of visitors getting a generic 404 page they can get an on brand page with a clear call-to-action (CTA) and reduce the chance of a lost client/customer.Must haves for a custom 404 page
“404” message – well duh, just because you can add a CTA doesn’t mean you should forget the reason people have ended up here. Let them know they have ended up on the wrong page, but not to worry you’ll help them find their way.
a search bar, ‘return to home’ button or sitemap – give visitors the chance to be able to search for what they were looking for, return to home or use the sitemap for guidance to continue on their way.
and last but not least… a CALL-TO-ACTION! …pretty self explanatory
I also want to make the point that this isn’t an opportunity for you to throw ten thousand products into a site visitors face, no – don’t do that! A 404 page still needs to send a message that the site visitor did not end up on their intended page, but you can definitely give them encouragement to head towards your latest blog post, or a new product you are trying to sell.
Ideas for CTAs you can put on your custom 404 page.
Direct visitors to your latest product or store.
A link to your services page.
Links to your latest blog post, if you want more traffic on the latest blog post.
An email opt-in to sign up for your newsletter.
A free download.
Whatever it is limit it to 1 (maybe 2) you don’t need to overwhelm your visitors. Imagine it… a 404 message, a search bar and a clear CTA all wrapped up in your awesome branding and you’re guaranteed to keep visitors on your website.
Have fun with it!
The best part about having a custom 404 page is that you can have a bit of fun with it!
Check out some of these companies’ custom 404 pages here.
Disney’s 404 page is simple and to the point, but it stays on brand with a bit of humour.
I love Steve Lambert’s, it’s so uncomfortable and awkward – but it works for his brand. Along with the big headline announcing it is the “most awkward 404 not found page on the internet” there is a video that goes for a few minutes (I think I tapped out at about 30 seconds), just telling you how awkward this is for you.
Omelet is a creative company and it shows on their 404 page. I had to give them a mention for their egg pun… I love puns and you should too! Keeping on brand there is another effect that happens when you scroll on the page… go check it out!
Affiliate Disclaimer: This article may contain some affiliate links. That means if you purchase something through any of these links, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend tools and resources that I have used personally or come highly recommended.
Domain, Hosting, DNS, SSL, CMS… confused? Don’t worry you’re not alone! I remember when I first started out learning web development it took me a while to wrap my head around all these new terms.
I’m sure you’re thinking “ugh do I even need to know what they are?”.
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: Yes – all of these things are key components to building a website and although it’s not the most thrilling aspect it’s in your best interest to know what each of them do and how they work in unison.
So let’s dive right in!
What is a Domain?
A domain name is the address of a website, this is the URL that a visitor types into a browser. For example, my domain name is www.shannonpayne.com.au. A domain name simplifies online navigation, without it we would need to memorise a combination of unique numbers and characters every time we wanted to visit a website.A domain name is made up of two parts:
Top Level Domain (TLD)
Second Level Domain (SLD)
SLDs are what make your domain unique, take my domain for example: shannonpayne.com.au, the SLD is shannonpayne and the .com.au is the TLD
SLD <– [shannonpayne] [.com.au] –> TLD
Common TLD’s that you are likely familiar with are
Some TLDs are restricted and you must meet certain requirements to register them..com.au (must have an ABN).gov (must be a government body).edu (must be an accredited education institute)As of 2020 there were more than 1500 different TLDs.
Web hosting gives your website a place to live on the internet. It provides space on a server that stores all of your website’s files (code, text, images, video etc). When someone goes to their browser and types in your domain, it is being directed to your space on the server. Without it, it would be like picking up a phone and hearing the dead tone.
The three primary types of hosting are Shared, Dedicated and VPS.
Shared Shared hosting means sharing a server and all its resources with other websites. Ideal for smaller websites.
Dedicated Dedicated hosting is a server that is 100% yours. This means you have full control over it and do not need to share resources with anyone else. Ideal for large websites.
On top of that, each hosting provider has varying levels of features, support and specifications within the different types of hosting. Hosting can vary from as little as $1 a month up to hundreds per month. Cheaper is not always better and it pays to do your research to find a host that is suitable for your website needs.
VPS VPS hosting is a single server that has been separated into multiple smaller private servers. So although you are still sharing the same server, you have your own private section that does not share as many resources. Ideal for medium sized websites.
I personally use Cloudways for hosting and I highly recommend it to all clients.
What is a DNS?
DNS (Domain Name Server) is what connects your Domain to your Hosting. When someone goes to a browser and types in a domain name the DNS is what connects the visitor to your host so that they can view your website.
Different web hosts have different DNS specific to them, so if you were to change web hosts you would need to update your DNS to your new hosts details, this is key so that when people enter your URL they are directed to the correct space on the internet.
Without the DNS properly configured people can not access your website. Imagine someone gives you an address to a house party and you show up and the party isn’t there!
What is an SSL?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is what keeps your website secure. It uses an encryption-based security protocol to ensure the privacy and security of your website. You know sometimes when you go to visit a website and your computer warns you it isn’t safe to visit? That is because that website does not have an SSL. This does not always mean that the website is unsafe, but without an SSL you are risking the chance of visitors turning back when they try to visit your website.
The easiest way to find out if your website has an SSL is to look at your domain. If the prefix is HTTPS it has an SSL, if it is HTTP it does not or alternatively you can enter your domain name into this website and it will check it for you.
All my hosting and maintenance plans have an SSL included, you can get more information here.
What is a CMS?
CMS (Content Management System) is a way for you to build a website without programming skills. Often confused with web hosting, a CMS is software that makes building a website more user friendly. Without a CMS you would need to know how to code to build a website.
Common CMS platforms are WordPress (my preferred), Squarespace, Joomla, Wix – to name a few.
Before choosing your web hosting you need to choose your CMS, as some CMS already have hosting included.
Still confused? How about an analogy (because analogies are fun!).
Say you want to visit your friends home, you get in your car and you type your friends address (Domain) into the GPS. You start driving to your friends’ home along the road (DNS), when you arrive at the location (Hosting) you see their house structure (CMS) and on the front of the door is a lock (SSL) so you know that it is secure inside.
Domain = Street address Hosting = Location DNS = Road to the house SSL = Lock on house (security) CMS = Foundations/structure of house
I get it, all the jargon can be overwhelming at times! But it is important to have a general understanding of what you are dealing with, and the rest you can hand over to the professionals **cough me cough**.
White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO refers to the techniques used to improve your websites search engine ranking.
You know how in old western films the hero wore the white cowboy hat and the villain would wear the black cowboy hat? Well, it’s the same with Black vs White Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO = Bad Practice
White Hat SEO = Good Practice
Black Hat SEO can be tempting for some as it is seen as a quick and easy way to climb up the search engine rankings. However the success is often short-lived, search engines are quick to penalise those that try to manipulate them.
SEO is a long game and White Hat SEO acknowledges that.
The best thing you can do for yourself, your business and your website is to know what tactics to implement and what to avoid. Continue reading to find out more and what you can do to improve your search engine ranking and what not to do so you don’t get penalised.
What is White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO refers to the correct and ethical way to optimise your site for search engine ranking by following search engine guidelines, focusing on the site visitors and users, and taking a long-term approach.
If you are providing useful content for your site visitors, you are likely to get return visitors and referrals. Search engines acknowledge this, by being a source of information you are benefiting your search ranking.
Ranking higher in search engines doesn’t happen overnight. SEO is a long game, and White Hat SEO acknowledges that. It takes time to build up your website as a reliable source, by implementing best practice every day you will eventually build the authority that gets you one page 1 of search engines.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is the opposite of White Hat SEO, it uses manipulative and unethical practices to attempt to rank higher in search engines. It violates search engine guidelines, focuses on search engine crawlers and is about making “quick-wins”.
The search engine crawlers do not see what the users see and vice versa. They see what is going on in the background, this is where Black Hat SEO techniques come into play which I will cover further below.
Many people who use Black Hat SEO techniques do not respect that SEO is a long game. They are focusing on how to rank as quickly and as easily as possible, which is not sustainable. It may not always be immediate but search engines do eventually catch up to you and they will penalise you.
White Hat SEO Techniques to Implement
1. Quality content
At the end of the day, this is exactly what search engines are looking for. They want you to provide quality content so that they can reference THEIR site visitors to you! If they are not providing quality content to their users, then those users will not return. It is a domino effect.
2. UX and UI
Build a website that is user friendly and easy to navigate. A site that is well laid out for visitors and takes them to where they need is going to improve bounce rate which is a considered factor for search engine ranking.
Related to user experience, search engines prioritise websites that are mobile friendly. Again they want the best user experience for their visitors. Google has a free Mobile-Friendly Test for you to see if your website is mobile-friendly. For more on responsive design read my blog post here.
4. Site speed
Your site speed signals to search engines that again your site is user-friendly. A slow-loading website is jeopardizing your search engine ranking. To check the speed of your website visit GT Metrix.
5. Proper use of keywords
Do proper keyword research, look for gaps in the market and build your content around those keywords. Don’t keyword stuff when writing your content either, stick to a primary keyword and a few secondary keywords, and make sure your content is legible!
Moz and Ahrefs both have great keyword research tools for you to use.
6. Optimised code
Write lean code and use properly structured code to assist search engines to find what they are looking for. Use proper heading tags so crawlers know what an article is about, use alt tags on your images. If you aren’t sure where to start, enlist the help of a web developer who can ensure your code is fully optimised.
7. Link building
Link building is a way to drive traffic from your website to other relevant sources and vice versa. This can be linking for further reading, linking a related source, linking a relevant document/image/video. It is another way to build your authority, keep in line with White Hat link building and avoid Black Hat practices described below.
Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
1. Keyword Stuffing
Probably the more common technique people use to get their content to rank higher. By repeatedly using keywords you may be getting noticed by search engines but you are making your content unreadable.
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at [email protected]
If your content has a higher percentage of keywords than actual useful information – you’re keyword stuffing.
2. Hidden Text
Exactly as the name suggests, this is hiding your text and links so that the user can not see it but the search engine is picking up on it and so potentially improving your ranking.
There are a few ways this can be achieved:
changing the colour of the text to match the page background (i.e. white text on white background).
linking a bit of punctuation such as a full stop or comma
making the font size so small it can not be seen
If your user can’t see it – don’t do it.
Similar to Hidden Text, Cloaking is when you are showing one thing to your visitors and another to search engines. For example, a visitor looks at your page and sees an image, however, a search engine sees hidden text and links coded into the page.
4. Duplicate content
You visit another website that is ranking well, you like their content, you copy it and publish it on your website. We learnt in school that plagiarism is bad – don’t forget that. Search engines won’t look at your site and think “oh wow this is great information”, instead they will think “hmm I’ve seen this somewhere else, this is not useful this is just duplicate content”. Don’t do it.
Doorway pages are of little use to visitors but are used to funnel visitors to the final destination. Generally, they are keyword rich and can appear useful to search engine crawlers which can temporarily increase your search ranking. However once a search engine discovers it you will be penalised and don’t think you’re safe if you’re a big company either, in 2006 Google penalised BMW for using doorways!
6. Comment Spam
How annoying are spam comments? Most people who have a blog will get spam comments at some point, and you will notice most of them have links. This is a Black Hat technique to build more backlinks to their website. It’s not cool, it’s annoying, and search engines will not like you for it.
These are but a few Black Hat SEO techniques you need to avoid to make sure you are not at risk of experiencing the wrath of Google or any other search engine.
For a full list of Black Hat SEO techniques to AVOID check out the guidelines given by the masters themselves at Google.
Penalties for using Black Hat SEO
With all this talk about how bad Black Hat SEO is, there have to be some consequences for using these techniques.
For starters, search engines will update their algorithm so the techniques you have been using will no longer be effective. Your “quick-wins” have become “quick-loses”.
Examples of this are:
Hummingbird: targeted exact-match keyword targeting and keyword stuffing
Panda: targeted low quality, thin content and spammy websites
These are general updates, however, if you really p*ss off Google you can get handed a manual action that means a real human has looked at your website and said NOPE. This can blacklist a web page or an entire website and you can lose your domain authority. To fix this you need to read the manual action report, fix the issues that have been described and then request a review.
But I bet you want me to name names, don’t you!
Asides from BMW that was mentioned above, here are some other companies that have suffered the wrath of Google!
JC Penney – JC Penney had a paid link strategy to rank better on Google search results. At the time every trending product you searched for you were supposed to see their website at the top. Google penalised them and their website ranking dropped to almost the hundredth position in the search results.
Gourmet Gift Baskets – after outsourcing their SEO, the owner woke up one day to find their site had disappeared from Google. It was discovered that one of the companies managing their SEO had been buying links and as a result, they were hit with a penalty right before the holiday season which ended up costing them almost USD 4 million!
Mozilla – Mozilla was penalised for hosting a webpage that had more than 21k spam comments! Although this wasn’t their fault, it serves a lesson to everyone with a website the importance of managing spam comments. The page lost some of its rankings, however, Mozilla ended up completely removing the page.
It goes to show it doesn’t matter who you are, how big your company is, Black Hat SEO tactics are to be avoided! You may experience quick-wins and a short time at the top, but search engines will catch up to you and the results can be devastating.
I still recall the first time I saw the highlighted text effect. I had only just started learning web development and while browsing the internet one day I came across a blog that had a pretty pink highlighted heading. I remember thinking to myself “hmm how do I highlight text in CSS?” And then thinking that MAYBE one day I would know how to do that?
WELL, fast forward to one week later (no joke), I had just signed my first website build and what was her request? “All headings to have that cool highlighted text effect”. Guess the time had come – I would learn how to do the highlighted text effect!
What ensued was a panicked googling session, bits of information gathered here and there, a lot of trial and error and voila! I had figured out the “cool highlighted text effect”
**hooray – pop the champagne**
I was so excited! This was my first time doing any sort of CSS styling, and it was also the moment I knew 100% I had made the right decision about learning web development!
What many people don’t know is that HTML already has a standard highlight tag, the ‘mark’ tag.
<mark>This is an example of me using the mark tag.</mark>
This is an example of me using the mark tag.
Pretty nifty huh? But what if you want more than the basic (boring) yellow highlight text?
Different colours, thicker line, thinner line, even multiple colours!
Well, say hello to my little friend Cascading Style Sheet (CSS).
I LOVE CSS! Seriously, it’s the best.
There are a couple of ways you can achieve this effect, I think my way is the best (obviously). But the way I am about to show you is in my opinion the most flexible option for width, height and positioning. It works really well and you can achieve any look you desire!
So let’s begin!
Step 1: The basics.
First of all we need to create the section of text that you want to highlight, you can do this to anything you want; headings, paragraph, links, dot points etc. I’ll be using the H1 heading tags.
*HTML has 6 heading tags: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6. H1 is the largest and should be used for the main headings of a page.
<h1>I love tacos!</h1>
I love tacos!
Step 2: Get specific.
We don’t want to make ALL H1 headings have the highlight effect, so we need to get a bit more specific, to do this we add the <span> tag. The <span> tag is used to group and apply styles to inline elements, you can read up more on it here.
<h1><span>I love tacos!</span><h1>
I love tacos!
You can see the <span> tag doesn’t actually do anything, to add styling to this we need to add a class (the class is what we target to add styling).
<h1><span class="highlight">I love tacos!</span></h1>
Step 3: Style it!
Now that we have the class “highlight” we know what we need to target when we add CSS.
If you’re using WordPress this can be done by either of the following methods:
Add it to the style.css
Add it in Additional CSS from the WordPress Dashboard >Appearance > Customize
I could go on all day but I think that is more than enough to get you started! Like I said earlier, the highlight effect was the first time I saw what I was capable of achieving with CSS – so it has a special place in my heart!
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