Sabrina

WordPress sites are vulnerable to new hacker attacks. Is yours secure?

Posted by | News, Websites | No Comments
Over the last week WordPress sites worldwide have been attacked by hackers. So what? you may say. We all know hackers are busy 24/7 trying to cause havoc. But this time it's a biggun. Apparently a botnet of tens of thousands of computers has been busily squirrelling away at any WP site using 'admin' as the login username. Here's what the BBC's website has to say: 'The botnet targets WordPress users with the username "admin", trying thousands of possible passwords. The attack began a week after WordPress beefed up its security with an optional two-step authentication log-in option. The site currently powers 64m websites read by 371m people each month. According to survey website W3Techs, around 17% of the world's websites are powered by WordPress.' So your first step, therefore, is to change your username. Now. (Any WP sites I set up, by the way, don't use 'admin' as the username. It's just too obvious.) You should also update to the latest version of WordPress (remember to back up first!) and use the optional two-step authentication with a secret number. Yes, it's one more thing to remember but a darned sight easier than rebuilding your website. Next, install a plugin such as Better WP Security. I also recommend installing your website in a separate folder on your server rather than in the root folder. Just don't call the folder WordPress or Website! If you want help beefing up the security on your site, please do get in touch with me so I can help you ward off hackers.

I’m just not a txt-speak person

Posted by | Writing and Editing | No Comments
old phonesRemember the days before smartphones? When normal mobile phones could only send short text messages? Was it the short messages or the sheer frustration of having to tap a key several times to use the letter you wanted which led to the abbreviation abomination known as txt-speak?  I suspect it was a bit of both. Even in those early days, I resisted using abbreviations such as 'u' for 'you'. Whenever possible, I spell words out. I may, on occasions where I'm in a tearing hurry, send a text along the lines of  "Ok, c u!" but oh dear, it's just not me. My pet hate in txt-speak is using 'ur' for 'your'. Ur was a city in ancient Mesopotamia. That's the first thing I think of when I see 'ur' in a text message or email. In high school we had a passionate Ancient History teacher whose name escapes me, but I can see her now, small and dark, vigorously gesturing as she spoke about Ur and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. She could see them in front of her, smell the smells, feel the desert heat, and she tried her best to bring it all to life for a classroom full of vaguely disinterested fourteen year old girls. So. I was fourteen and ur was Ur. Pronounced Err. If I wanted to abbreviate the word 'your', I used 'yr'. 'Yr' was used extensively by Jack Kerouac and the beat generation in the late 50s, and the use of 'yr' for 'your' goes back to the late 1700s. Confusingly, 'yr' is also a modern abbreviation for 'year', but unless you are extremely thick, you'll realise which context of 'yr' people are using when they write to you. I confess to using abbreviations such as LOL, BRB etc on Facebook and social media. Heck, I even speak LOLspeak, that feline language created by the Cheezeburger people. The English language is forever changing (unlike French, which is strictly controlled by l'Academie Francaise), and the way we speak and write reflects that. I'm happy to embrace change, but to a point: I have never used 'ur' for 'your', and I never will. I just find it offensive to my psyche. I'm a dinosaur. I suspect in fifty years time spelling and even grammar won't matter for the majority of people; we will be a society dependent on computers who will happily spell and correct for us. If I'm still around, you can bet I will still be resisting using 'ur'.

So what’s Pinterest and how can it help my business?

Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | No Comments
PinterestOne of the fastest growing social media sites is Pinterest. Think of a digital corkboard or pinboard, where you pin up images you upload or find around the internet that are of interest to you. You may think you don't need yet another social media distraction, but Pinterest could really work for your company to boost your Search Engine rankings. I've been reading a blog post by Jeff Bullas which delves into how this could work for you. Remember right now that external links and keywords are your best friends for SEO ranking. And that Pinterest is the perfect tool to use both very simply. Jeff's article looks at ways to use links, including guest blogging and guest posting. Now if you're a solo flyer who works with others on different projects this is a fantastic opportunity to cross-post and help each other. Commenting on others' 'pins' with a link back to your own site is an obvious way of drawing traffic. Jeff likes the idea of giving away a product or two (if your business is product-related) as interest in your giveaway will expose you to a wide new crowd of potential buyers. And finally by using the source feature of Pinterest you can cross-check on what your competitors are up to on Pinterest. What sort of business would really flourish with a Pinterest account? I'm thinking designers and photographers in particular - website, fashion, graphic, industrial, furniture and so on - could really get their businesses soaring. Designers, photographers and stylists use visuals in everything they do; visuals are the backbone of their businesses. So what better place than Pinterest to go to town? Wedding planners, event managers, travel companies and agents: Pinterest is definitely for you, too. Anyone in the beauty industry should be on Pinterest too. And that's just after thinking about who Pinterest could help for oh, say, two minutes. Give me an hour and I'll give you a blog post as big as War and Peace. And if you make products that are available for sale on your website, you have no excuse. Get on Pinterest now and plug your goodies. Sell the dream. Don't just post pics of your products, find pics that help people imagine more about the products and where they could use them. For example, if you make skin creams, pin images of foreign places, of tropical islands where your skin cream will soothe, of Paris in the snow where your skin cream will nourish skin affected by the cold. Getting it yet? Social media doesn't have to take over your business day, but it does need regular feeding and attention. If you think Pinterest is going to be utterly addictive, set yourself a time limit on a daily basis. Ten minutes a day to do a quick search of what you can pin and pins by others you can comment on. Get into a routine, perhaps set a different item each day to research. At the very least you'll make interesting new contact who could help your business grow. Find out more about Pinterest for businesses right here. Now, go and sign up, because it's free, and start pinning!

Why websites are still relevant as a means to advertise your company

Posted by | Marketing, Services, Social Media, Websites | No Comments
I read a great article on the Smart Company website this morning. Author Craig Reardon argued the case for the ongoing existence of websites as marketing tools amid the wash of social media and sexy apps. Websites, he said, provided excellent opportunities for promoting a call to action within a marketing campaign. And unlike social media sites, where you are constrained by the design confines provided by those sites, on your own website you can do as you wish with the size of your advertising campaign images and the associated copy. Yes, social media is undoubtedly a necessary tool for most businesses these days, especially if you are engaging Gen X and young adults. But don't discount the value of your website, and keeping it up to date and relevant. Don't throw all your advertising into social media and leave your website looking stale. So, think about this. How can you use your website better? Can you offer your clients an online booking service via your website? Can you offer your clients something special if they jump onto your site after finding you on social media? (For example, you have a special landing page for these visitors and you might offer them something for nothing or a 5% or 10% discount on your services only available by visiting that page.) If you sell products via a traditional shop, why not also put a shopfront on your website so people who can't make it to your shop can buy from your site? It's not expensive in the big scheme of things - we can develop and integrate a shopfront from as little as $500 on top of your ordinary website, and that includes your SSL certificate - and your business then becomes national or international... wherever you want to take it, essentially. Websites will stay an integral part of marketing for years to come; they can provide a more in-depth look at what you do than social media does, but both options work hand in hand to promote your business. Chat to us about how we can help you promote an integrated look and feel across your social media and website, and how campaigns could work for you.
Louise Brooks

When silence is golden

Posted by | Lifestyle | 2 Comments
Ever noticed how much noise there is in our everyday life? While I'm typing this I can hear the white noise of traffic on the major road half a kilometre away. I don't, for once, even have the radio on. It's usually in the background, quite gentle, and tuned to ABC Classic FM; soothing stuff for the most part. I need peace and quiet when I work, which is why I work alone. Surrounded by people I can feel my annoyance rising. A trip to the post office will take me into a noisy mall, all tiled floors and hard surfaces. It's only when I walk out and head towards home (I walk to the PO rather than take the car for environmental and health reasons) that I realise how awfully loud it was in there. And it IS awful, a cacophonous din of doof doof music from the fashion shops, kids crying, people talking loudly so they can be heard over the music. Noise can affect our moods. Shopping mall noise - any constant, loud noise really - can make us short tempered, or in a work situation, decrease our concentration. It's no surprise that people are addicted to their iPods, choosing their own music over the noise forced upon them. Having had the house to myself for a few days with my husband on a business trip, I haven't even turned on the television at night. I have rejoiced in peace and quiet. I've spent two nights painting pictures, and the third, last night, I watched silent movies on YouTube on my iPad.
Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks

I had to laugh at myself when I considered what I was doing. I had purposely sought out 1920s movies (Pandora's Box starring the sublime Louise Brooks and It starring bubbly Clara Bow) as an antidote to the workdays I have, when technology bombards me from 8.30am to 6.00pm. In the 1920s the telephone was as technological as you got and not every home had one. But... I was watching on a very 2012 invention. There's something strange about that! There are times when I curse technology. Computers were supposed to make our lives simpler but we are flooded with emails, with requests to network via our computers or other technology; often we are so overwhelmed with the amount of information, requests and data we receive that our productivity is worse than it was twenty years ago, and we are working longer hours just to get the workload done. Clients expect instant results, everything is 'urgent'. I now turn the sound down on my Mac so I don't hear the 'bong' of emails dropping into my inbox as it's distracting, and when I'm on an urgent task, depressing. And as for mobile phones, yes, smartphones are wonderful and I would hate to go back to life without some of my favourite apps. But it seems there is no escape from people wanting to contact you 24/7 and then complaining if you don't answer the phone. Sorry folks, the phone goes to voicemail when I'm driving or in a meeting. Get over it. But when technology gives me the means to escape to a less frenetic time, I embrace it. I don't even have to turn the sound down. Silents are golden.

Websites: RydeNFly

Posted by | Portfolio, Websites | No Comments
Our latest build is for new kid on the block in the airport shuttle business, Frank Di Palma of RydeNFly. Frank's shuttle service covers Sydney's northern districts, taking passengers to and from Sydney Airport, Darling Harbour and the CBD. The immaculate new 14 seater bus is also available for charter. Frank's brief was that he wanted a small and simple site, with the ability to take shuttle bookings. Like his bus, he wanted it clean and crisp. Frank is delighted with his site, and tells us the booking forms work a treat; he gets instant emails on his smart phone. Oh, and the site has, like any modern site should, a mobile version for execs on the go wanting to book a shuttle. Visit rydenfly.com.au
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Publicising your blog post via pings, rss and social media

Posted by | Marketing, Services, Social Media, Writing and Editing | No Comments
Now you've written your post you need to publicise it using pings,rss and social media.

Pinging

WordPress settings can automatically send your blog posts to a list of sites including Google, Feedburner, Technorati, Yahoo and more. Users can add these sites under Settings | Writing. I set all my clients up with a long list of sites in this section, starting with PingOMatic, so their blog posts have a wide reach. There has been comment about WordPress causing 'ping spam' in that every time you update an already published post, a new ping of that post is sent to the ping services and search engines. Unless you are a compulsive editor who insists on making changes several times when a post is published, this shouldn't affect you. One or two edits are fine. Ideally though, keep your blog posts in draft mode and use the Preview button until you are completely satisfied with your post. There is a plugin for WordPress users which lets you control when and how you ping your posts, but I have read mixed reviews about it and at this stage have not installed it for my clients.

RSS

I enable RSS feeds for all my client sites - again this helps with SEO and allows visitors to subscribe to those feeds and get the blog posts in their email inbox. For some of us this may be a bit of an old-fashioned way to do things as social media is now a more savvy way to spread your word. But again, it helps with SEO.

Social Media

Ideally this element is a blog post in itself! Firstly I am not a social media coach, so I won't be giving you a strategy on how to use social media for your blog or business. Everybody's business is different so social media channels that work for you may not work for someone else. Having said that, you are likely to have a Twitter account and Facebook page and probably Google+, or at least one of those. If you have Twitter and Facebook, it's easy enough to set your blog posts to send directly to Twitter and have Twitter post them on your Facebook page. There are plugins which do this on WordPress sites - and on other software too. An obvious tip for your Facebook page: once you've posted your blog post to your Page, do go back to your personal account and share it with your friends too! This gives you the opportunity to tag people in your status update to encourage them to look at your post - something you can't do with an automated post. You may like to consider using Hootsuite to manage all your social media networks, saving you time and effort. This could be a real time-saver if you regularly use more than two or three social media channels. There is a cost involved in using Hootsuite after a 30 day free trial. Ping.fm (soon to be Seesmic) is another tool to integrate your blog posts with your social media accounts. LinkedIn gives you options for feeding your WordPress posts and your Twitter feeds to your LinkedIn profile. Networked Blogs provides social media sharing options and the option for syndication. If you are a prolific blogger and post at least two articles a week, then syndication is a must. Obviously you want your visitors to share posts they like on your site, so it's important to give them some sharing options on each post. I include a sharing plugin for each of my clients so visitors can share posts through a number of social media channels. An example of these is showing at the bottom of this post. I hope this post has provided a basic explanation of ways to publicise your blog. The more it gets 'out there' the higher your search engine ranking will be. Do have some ideas or strategies you'd like to share? Leave a comment below and let's get chatting about it.  
Love your new site!

Key points for writing a good blog post

Posted by | Marketing, Services, Writing and Editing | No Comments
So, what makes a good blog post? Let's look at a few key tips.

A killer title makes your visitors read on

Firstly, your killer title. We've spoken about that one in this article - but a killer title is nothing without killer content!

So does the first para - if you've planned properly

What about that opening line or para? Does it have impact? A good method is to ask a question... and then reveal the answer as the blog post unfolds. Another way to grab your reader's attention from the first paragraph is to have a great one-liner or unexpected anecdote as your opening para. Jeremy Clarkson is very good at this! You can offer something exclusive, e.g.beginning your blog post with a claim such as "In this post I'm going to teach you how to save $50 a week on your grocery shopping." You do have to back up the claim with relevant information or follow up material if that is what you're promising, otherwise you'll lose readers or potentially become the target of bad press on social media channels (and remember that people spread bad news quicker than good). Statistics are also a good starter. Couple that with a question - "Did you know that 99% of ginger cats are male?" - and you have a great opener.

Step back a bit - are you on target with the theme of your blog?

Before we get into content, let's step back a bit and consider what your blog is about. Is your blog consistent in what it addresses? If you market your blog as a photography or camera review, don't start getting off topic and talk about, for example, traffic in your street. Good and popular blogs are consistent, they have a theme. Obviously if you have a business you're going to blog about what you know. If you're a project manager your topics will generally revolve around ways to improve project management. You may be an expert in your field and have plenty of knowledge to impart. If you have a retail site, introduce and review new products in your post - and of course include a link to the product in your online shop. For legal blogs comments on new legislation and how it affects their clients is an obvious one. But what about personal blogs? What makes them successful? Again, it's sticking to one theme. Take, for example, Lovely Bicycle! (The exclamation point belongs to the blog name.)  Blogger Velouria started out around three years ago as a blogger who hadn't ridden a bicycle since her high school years. She'd decided to get back into riding. Initially the blog was about her test riding and choosing a bike. She had few followers. With a compelling writing style, and each post concentrating on a particular subject, Velouria shared her learning experience with her readers and gained followers by the day. Her followers consisted of experienced cyclists and people like herself, who were learning about bicycles. As Velouria learned more about many aspects of cycling and the engineering behind bikes her followers have grown and now she has monetized her blog and it's not uncommon for her to get more than 70 comments on some of her blog posts. Now THAT''s successful! Why has this blog worked? Because Velouria has shared her learning journey, has asked for help and comments, has investigated why some things work for her and some don't and shared her thoughts concisely - and not without a sense of humour either.

OK, so that's the theme sorted. Now what about those posts?

Now, back to content. Let's quickly look at a few pointers to keep in mind: Keep your article between 350 and 1000 words. People don't want to read a novel but less than 350 words can be detrimental to your SEO. Try and have a link every 120-200 words, it helps SEO. Ascertain what your keywords are and make sure they are in the title and in the first sentence or at least para of the post. If you need assistance in determining your keywords consider using a service such as SEO Scribe, which does help you write a good post. Use your keywords wisely. Ideally you shouldn't use any keyword more than ten times per blog post, otherwise your post could be deemed as spam. Use H3 and H4 tags - sub-headings in other words. Search engines love them. We all know that regular posts help raise your SEO, but there is no excuse for writing an article that doesn't have a point or a reason for being just to put your weekly blog post out. So, your post must have a reason for existing. Don't write for the sake of writing. Give your reader a reason for reading your post. Having said that, your articles should each address individual topics, or points. If you have to, divide your posts up into two or three posts if you have two or three strong ideas or points in one post. Encourage your readers to get involved - to comment, to give their opinion, share their experiences. In other words, a call to action. Ask a question of your readers. Yes, I know I've covered that earlier where you could ask a question and give the answer, but you could ask a question and ask your readers to supply answers. If you are selling something, ask people to buy - don't be shy! But don't do the hard sell either. At the least ask people to simply click on a social media share button if they liked your post. We are all so used to clicking "Like" it's no hardship. Once you've written the first draft, do edit and proofread. Check that you haven't overused your keywords.  Check your grammar, check your spelling (remembering that spellchecker can sometimes turn your sentence into something unintelligible). If you are unsure, run it past a colleague or ask a proof reader like me to help out. Print your article out and read through it - are you putting your point across, clearly? Do you have a call to engagement from your readers? Does it all flow well? Overall, does it make a point? Does it have a reason to be published?

A picture is worth...

Yeah, we know. Those 1000 words I mentioned earlier. So do use an image if you have one which depicts your topic. Feel free to use more than one, particularly if you're writing a personal blog as opposed to a business blog. Give your image an ALT tag so that readers with impaired vision can have its title read out to them. ALT tags help SEO too.

You've hit publish. Now what?

Ah, this is a topic for another post - getting your article out there on social media and other marketing tools. After all, this post is about writing a post, so I'll be sticking on topic with this one! As for this topic - has it helped you? Let me know and leave a comment below.
It's About Time Fitness

Websites: It’s About Time Fitness

Posted by | Portfolio, Services, Websites | No Comments
Our newest client Helen James of It's About Time Fitness is delighted with her new website which we completed this week. Helen works mainly with mature women over forty who want to get fit but for whatever reason don't like traditional gyms and fitness centres, and offers personal training and group fitness in the great outdoors - namely in a gorgeous park in Sydney's inner west. She wanted a clean and simple design that would work with her corporate blue and pink colours. Helen is going to use the site not just as a business card but as a blog too with regular health and fitness tips. In the back end we have all the features she needs including anti-spam measures, captcha on forms, caching to enhance performance, one-click backup and more. When her social media accounts are up and running we'll be adding those too. In the meantime we're working on her SEO. If you'd like a gorgeous site like this one, do contact us!

The name says it all – why your blog posts need good titles

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Free beer! It's an attention grabber, isn't it? What if you clicked on a blog post with the title Free beer! and found that it didn't mention beer at all, let alone free beer? You'd feel disappointed. What a waste of fifteen seconds of your life scanning a blog post to find out more about that non-existent free beer. It's vitally important that your blog posts have titles relevant to the content of the post itself, and that the title isn't too long. Keeping your title under about 40 characters is ideal. That way the entire title will appear in search results. The last thing you want is the latter half of your blog title missing in action from google. And use keywords in your post name. If your blog post is about a comparison of camera bags under $200, then 'camera bags' 'under $200' and 'comparison' are key words - as some of the major brands you talk about will be. So your blog post name could be: Comparison of camera bags under $200. That helps mightily for someone searching for a comparison of camera bags costing less than $200. It's far more effective than merely titling your post Camera Bags or Here's what you should be reading right now if you are looking for a camera bag that costs less than $200. Of course you should be using keywords in your blog post body too but that is another blog post... stay tuned for that one. Take your time to consider an appropriate title for your blog post. Grab attention with it by all means but make sure it's relevant to the post itself and does contain keywords. If in doubt, and you're a WordPress blogger, subscribe to the Scribe SEO Content Optimizer software, which will look at your title and post, recommend keywords and where you should make changes.