Fighting your forms spam

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CAPTCHAHaving forms on your site instead of email as a means of contact is a great way of minimising junk email - we know spammers love to get their hands on email addresses. Forms are susceptible to spambots, however; you will have noticed most sites now use a form of "CAPTCHA", where you, the user, have to type in words or numbers displayed before you submit the form. CAPTCHA stops spambots. CAPTCHA relies on you, the human, seeing an image with the letters and numbers embedded in it, often distorted to make it harder for spambots to analyse. If you leave the CAPTCHA field blank, your form cannot be submitted. Spambots can't 'read' CAPTCHA images. Many of the forms on our client WordPress sites use the excellent Contact Form 7 plugin to easily build the form, together with Really Simple CAPTCHA, from the same developer, to add that anti-spam layer of security. Really Simple Captcha IS really simple - four letters or numbers that your readers have to type into the box; however, it works effectively. We have been using it on our site and a number of client sites for ages. While there are other form builder plugins out there Contact Form 7 is easy to use for people who don't have programming experience. If you're a small business owner running a non-IT business, you don't have the time or need to learn to program fiddly forms. We've chosen an easy and effective method for you to create new forms and edit existing ones. If you are one of our clients and still getting spam from your forms, contact us and we'll look into the issue and fix it for you.  
Spam - universally disliked.

Plugins to minimise your comment spam

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Spam - universally disliked.We all hate spam - the electronic kind, that is, although I haven't heard of anyone except tv presenter James May who likes the tinned stuff! Spammers are sophisticated and relentless, and use 'spambots' - automatic spamming - to leave nonsense comments on your website or contact form data. Typically you receive notification of comments and forms via email, and who needs more junk email?  Thankfully there are measures you can take to keep these pests at bay. Mortein for the Internet. With WordPress' modular construction, we use Plugins to combat spam (as well as add some amazing functionality to sites). One of the most popular for killing off spam is Akismet, which is free for personal sites or via a donation should you wish, and via a monthly billing system for high-traffic, commercial or money-making sites. It's very thorough - it stops 99% of spam comments making it to your inbox. Akismet comes bundled with WordPress even though it's a third party application. It is THAT effective. We've been using it until recently. However... I've recently discovered that Akismet uses its own server to process data. What's the problem with that? Well, as far as your readers are concerned, their data is being sent to a third party server, including their IP address. This could raise privacy issues and potentially make some of your readers annoyed with you. We are currently trialling Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin on most of our client sites as a result of a successful trial on this site. It has a growing reputation, and works on the client side, not the server side. In other words it sits on your website and does it work, not on a third party server. People leaving comments have to simply tick a box to prove they're human and not a spambot. Because of the coding behind the plugin, the tickable box is invisible to spambots. So - no tick, no submit comment. For you, the user, it's easy to configure; if you wish you can simply install it and not touch a single option. It's free to use - which is often something our small business clients take into consideration. We will be trialling AntiSpamBee next on this site and will roll out to interested clients in the new year if we like it and think it's as good as its reputation. Again, it's a free plugin. It also sits on the client side and doesn't use any third party servers to block spam. Mollom is a big player in the anti-spam stakes, and offers a free version as well as a paid one. The downside with the free version is that you must wear the Mollom logo on your website. Paid plans start from 30 Euros a month, so depending on the rise and fall of the Australian dollar, this could either be a cheap or expensive option for a small business owner. Another possible point of contention is that data is sent to Mollom's servers; there's that third party issue again. If you'd like to try any of these spam-fighting heroes on your site, contact us and it shall be done.
hr2go vital people

Websites: HR2GO Vital People

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hr2go vital peoplePamela Dickerson provides HR services to companies of all sizes across Australia from her base in Dubbo, particularly in the mining and construction industries.  She needed a site which would load quickly and allow visitors to buy and download documentation. Once again WordPress provided the appropriate solution for Pamela's needs.

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.

The greengrocer’s apostrophe – a fellow ranter shares my pain

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I've long admired Imre Salusinky's articles. Back in the 90s I used to read his column in the Australian Financial Review. Now he's with The Australian, and a regular contribution to its The Wry Side column. Imre also writes a regular column in the weekend edition, and this week's column is near and dear to my heart. Imre is ranting about the inappropriate use of apostrophes, and, briefly, the misuse and lack of use of the semi-colon; one only seems to see the semi-colon as part of a winking smiley these days. Here's the link to Imre's blog post, but I'll quote my favourite bit below. "THE apostrophe is the plaster gnome in the garden of written English: ubiquitous, decorative and often unnecessary. While the semicolon (or "winking comma") is disappearing because younger writers don't understand how to use it, its evil cousin the apostrophe is spreading like privet. But success may prove the undoing of the "flying comma", with experts saying the time for a comprehensive weeding program has arrived. When a colleague recently pointed me to the website of a Melbourne outfit called Craig Thomson Entertainment, I was struck less by the coincidence in the company's name than by the labels on the links to its various services, which include: "duo's," "venue's" and "wedding's". This is the famous "greengrocer's apostrophe" (or, arguably, "greengrocers' apostrophe") so named because the superfluous apostrophe is reputedly a common feature on hastily scribbled blackboards advertising today's prices of "apple's," "tomato's" and so on." I do love the idea of the "greengrocer's apostrophe". That description encompasses the widespread misuse in the retail industry of this humble but pretty item of punctuation. I urge you to read the entire article - and think carefully about your punctuation in everything you write!

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

Having trouble viewing YouTube videos? This could be the answer

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I love using a Mac. But sometimes things don't 'just work' the way you expect them to on Apple's finest. This morning I was checking a video on YouTube using Safari and I couldn't play it. I couldn't play any video. While I could see the thumbnails, the video area itself was an unrelenting black screen which didn't respond and was to all intents and purposes dead. I pondered for a moment whether the latest system update could have affected it, but then decided a quick search was in order before I started muttering and growling. Usually someone else has had a similar problem and found a solution, which was indeed the case. So here is a fix I found on the Google Support Forum:
1) Right-click (or control-click) on the Safari icon in "Applications" folder.
2) Choose "get info" from the contextual menu.
3) Select "open in 32-bit" in Get Info, and then close the pane.
4) Re-launch Safari. The videos should play now.
This fix worked for me - good luck if you're experiencing a similar problem!

Websites: Harris Crime Prevention Services

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Harris Crime Prevention ServicesHarris Crime Prevention Services has been a client of mine for several years now through a couple of website iterations. It was time to take Leon Harris and his team of specialist security consultants into the era of CMS, giving them the flexibility to update their site whenever they want. The new Harris Crime Prevention Services website built by Arion Productions was launched today. Leon wanted to increase his SEO ranking, particularly for the highly sought after 'security consultants sydney' keywords. We've already got him to number one on 'crime prevention consultants sydney'. Having a blog and increasing his social media presence will help out here. Google takes social media accounts, the number of shares, likes and retweets into its calculation now. Have a strong social media presence and you'll stand more chance of getting on page one.