Orange Grove Market

And now for something completely different

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So now I'm selling candles at markets at weekends. Why? I needed a change from spending all day sitting at a desk, behind a computer, dealing with coding and clients. In short, I needed an income stream which provides less stress. I am not taking on any new clients at the moment, but will continue to provide maintenance to existing ones. My website and graphic design business is now a part-time enterprise. A little bit more about the candles. They are made by HIVE Australia, and are 100% Australian beeswax blended with pure essential oils, and they have Australian cotton wicks. They are as natural as the HIVE team can make them, with no nasty toxins. As I've loved burning candles since I was a teen, I'm delighted to be spending my Saturdays or Sundays introducing this incredible brand to others, and enjoying the scented bliss of my market stall. You'll find me most Saturdays at the fantastic Orange Grove Organic Market in Lilyfield, Sydney. Keep an eye on my candles Facebook page to find out where I'll be each weekend.

The wisdom of Solomon – David Solomon of Quiddity Business

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Every now and then we all meet people who give us a lightbulb moment - or more than one. It could be about work, it could be about life. It could be about both. I met up with David Solomon of Quiddity Business for a chat today, and lightbulbs were flashing left, right and centre as we talked over a cup of tea. The sky may have been grey but suddenly it was a much, lighter, brighter shade. Because I love words, I was interested to know the background of Quiddity as a business name. There's a hint of 'making a quid' about it, which brought to mind the way David can show his clients ways to run a profitable business. But he explained it's actually an Old English/Medieval Latin word. Its meaning is along the lines of "the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing." (This definition is from Read More

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

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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.

A new website for RBF

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I've been building and maintaining the website for umbrella chamber of commerce Ryde Business Forum since January 2001, and today loaded up and gave the final tweak to the fifth website I've built for the organisation. It had been in the back of my mind to build a WordPress site for the Forum since last winter; the more I work with WordPress the more I like it both as a platform to build on and as an editor when the site is up. Read More

WordPress 3.3 is available

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We're always telling our clients to update to the latest version of WordPress, and now 3.3 is here. Should you update? It's a fairly major upgrade from WP, with much improved facilities if you're using an iPad and streamlining of the Dashboard area, with your submenus flying out at the side on mouseover, rather than expanding downwards (very useful if you use a laptop with a smaller screen). The media uploader has changed to a more simple drag and drop facility. Behind the scene there is improved javascript, which won't really affect you as a client. Find out all the changes here at the WordPress site. Because it's a major upgrade, there are possibilities of bugs which need to be ironed out. Eager users will be finding those bugs and reporting them, so it may be an idea to wait until the next upgrade is released, which will probably be by the end of the year or early in 2012. If you just can't wait to upgrade, we do recommend you back up your site before, in case there are any issues. If you are unsure about backing up your site, WordPress has answers to your questions and a how-to here.  If this all looks a bit too complicated you may like to try out Vaultpress, a plugin which backs up your site every time you make a change. It is not a free plugin - and there is a privacy issue in that your data is being backed up on Vaultpress' server - but worth the minimum $15/month. Of course you can always ask us to perform the upgrade for you; we do that for our clients as a matter of course for smaller updates and will be waiting until 3.3.1 is released before we backup and upgrade your site for you, host server permitting.

Google+ for business – grab your page now

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Google+Google announced this week that it had extended Google+ to allow users to create pages for their company or organisation. Get in quick, particularly if you have a business name that could be confused with someone else's. Why should you? It's an extra SEO boost for your company, as you can link your own website with your Google+ page. Andrew Cherwenka of The Huffington Post explains it rather nicely in this article. We know that Google wants its new service to not only rival Facebook but knock it out of the water. Google+ is a cloud service whose file-sharing abilities are a boon for organisations as it works hand in glove with Google Docs - and we know that Facebook doesn't have an equivalent. Picture a group of contractors, all working on the same project, sharing their files in real time on Google+. They are all in the same 'circle' and people outside that circle can't see or access the file. Rather than emailing files back and forth, files are checked in and out in real time. For small business, Andrew Cherwenka has a comment to gladden your heart: "Google Plus makes it pretty easy to sort followers into groups (they call them Circles) and send targeted, relevant messages to these smaller audiences. Brands can create robust content calendars with posts intended just for certain cities, ages, gender and languages. Imagine Pizza Hut sending a family dine-in update to 35-year-old mothers in Toronto and a take-out offer just to 22-year-old guys in Thunder Bay. To brands, that's gold." We're experimenting with the new business page for Google+ at the moment. It's superbly easy to set up. Within five minutes of setting the page up we had it linked to the sociables section on this website. Finding the contacts to go in circles is slightly harder. Unless your contacts fill in relevant information and add an image you can recognise, you may well be adding the wrong John or Jane Smith to your circles. We'll keep you posted.                  

Getting onto the front page of Google

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It's every business' delight to get on the front page of Google - without paying for advertising. I achieved it this week for my client CATitude.  As I've mentioned before in this blog, Sharon of CATitude runs a cat-sitting business on Sydney's lower north shore. She is a startup who has performed thorough competitive analysis and her direct competitors in her geographical niche aren't many. Getting a good response from search engines should not have been a difficult task. Our biggest hurdle was pushing Google to respider the site once it was built. We'd put a custom 'coming soon' page in place and it took almost four days following completion of the site to encourage the search engine to swing by again. Other pages in the site were showing up in searches, albeit on page 3 and beyond when you typed in a search such as 'cat sitting services Sydney lower north shore'. One way to encourage a respider is to join online directories and get your social media happening. Sharon started to advertise her business on gumtree, I got busy adding CATitude to other directories and search engines. Needless to say we had already tweaked as much as we could for Sharon through Google Analytics and Webmaster tools and got Google+1 happening. We did use some other SEO secrets but well, secrets are secrets, and Sharon has paid for my service so secrets they shall remain unless you'd like to hire me too. As I write this, CATitude is on the front page of Google not for just 'cat sitting services Sydney lower north shore' but for the more general search of 'cat sitting Sydney', where there are MANY competitors. As with any search engine there is no guarantee how long it will stay on page one; we have coached Sharon in making sure new content is added frequently, which does help. But for a startup business who has just secured its first client as a result of an internet search, it's gratifying and rewarding. Another of my recent SEO jobs has been to elevate the search engine results for Harris Crime Prevention Services, and that site is also currently on the front page of Google when you search for 'security consultants Sydney', which is owner Leon Harris' preferred search term he wanted improved results for. He was already doing well with 'CPTED consultant Sydney' (a specialised area of security and crime prevention) and it's been a long hard slog inching him up to the front page. SEO isn't something you do once and forget about. It's like a plant or tree, it needs regular nurturing. Typically I will put in several hours initially establishing a SEO presence for a client as well as building SEO into the content of the site itself. It's a complex animal as search engine algorithms change and improve on a regular basis. If you're wondering why I no longer do sites for $495, SEO is the reason; it takes time and keyword research. It's also worth the money, if you do care about getting a good search engine ranking. I would recommend that clients revisit their SEO status on a regular basis, particularly if their site is slipping back in the search engines. There is always some tweaking we can do to get you back up there.

A busy October with two new sites up and running: Eastwood Chamber and CATitude

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Phew... ever get those months you don't get to draw breath? I seem to have a had a lot of them in the last couple of years and October 2011 was certainly one with the Eastwood Chamber of Commerce rebuild and CATitude cat sitting site both coming online. Firstly, the Eastwood Chamber of Commerce website. I had built the existing one in HTML and it was looking tired and dated, so a makeover into WordPress was called for. A key feature of the site had to be the ability for the Chamber to add and edit pages not only in English but Chinese (simplified) and Korean, as the Eastwood shopping precinct is truly multicultural. Eastwood Chamber of CommerceThanks to the Sitepress Multilingual plugin, adding the ability to have Chinese and Korean pages was a breeze. A bit of a tweak in the PHP database made sure the characters displayed properly. The translation works throughout the site, taking into account info on posts and pages, but also dates and other information. Lovely. Now for CATitude. I loved this job. Being a cat person, searching through image libraries with client Sharon to find the perfect photos of cats to enhance this site was a task made in heaven for me. This is another WordPress site, using an extremely easy to use yet good-looking template. The brief was light, bright and white with accents of blue and also an acid green. We chose images that blended with that cool, modern colour palate, with plenty of deep-etched or isolated cat images. Clients can book a consultation online, book Sharon's services and pay for them online without leaving the site. CATitudeCATitude offers a cat sitting service on Sydney's lower north shore, so you can leave your cats at home while you're away. Cats get terribly stressed when you put them in boarding facilities, so Sharon visits up to twice a day, feeding, brushing and playing with your cat or cats. Having worked with Sharon to build this site, I can recommend her; she's studied cat psychology, has a remarkable Siamese who is almost human and she LOVES cats. Yours couldn't be in better hands. As she says, it's all about the cat.

Follow us on Facebook!

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Facebook logoArion Productions has (finally!) started a Facebook page where we'll be sharing our news, business news, web tips and more. You'll find us here so come along and hit the Like button. You won't be bombarded several times a day with stuff you don't want to read or can't be bothered reading, but I hope you'll find our content interesting and want to share it around. See you on Facebook! Cheers, Sabrina