5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Website From Hackers

Websites are like houses. They both contain valuable information about important people. You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked overnight and you shouldn’t leave your website unprotected either. This blog post is going to lay out some tips on protecting your company’s information so you don’t end up like Target. We will be going over the highlights from Entrepreneur’s article on web safety.

  1. Passwords: This may seem really simple, but passwords are the first step of protection against hackers and malware. Here are some tips to designing a secure password:
    • Use at least one uppercase letter
    • If your system allows, use at least one symbol like “_”
    • Use a set of non consecutive numbers, 1234 is much too easy
    • Don’t use the same password in multiple places
    • Update your passwords frequently
    • This article provides a step-by-step guide in creating a strong password
  2. Updates: It’s important that you stay up-to-date on the latest hacking techniques and malware technologies. If you don’t know how these things work, then you can’t effectively protect your website against them. Also, updating software frequently is the easiest way to defend against the bad guys. Software updates help to patch up and loopholes and protect your website from the latest technology threats        

    picture of a desktop being protected from the internet by a brick wall
    Firewall
  3. Web Application Firewalls: Like in the picture above, a firewall goes in between your server and the data connection. John Rampton of Entrepreneur explains:

    Most of the modern WAFs [Web Application Firewalls] are cloud based and provided as a plug-and-play service, for a modest monthly subscription fee. Basically, the cloud service is deployed in front of your server, where it serves as a gateway for all incoming traffic. Once installed, web application firewall provides complete peace of mind, by blocking all hacking attempts and also filtering out other types of unwanted traffic, like spammers and malicious bots.

  4. Plugins: HostGator’s article on how to protect your website against hackers suggests using plugins to beef up your web security. Plugins are particularly helpful if you are working with website management services like WordPress. Although plugins are not nearly as comprehensive as firewalls, they can give baseline protection to rookie website owners. There are a host of plugins available. HostGator recommends two freebies for WordPress, Better WP Security and Bulletproof Security. If you are willing to invest some money in a security plug-in, the site recommends SiteLock.  
  5. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL): According to SSL.com’s article, SSL can be defined as, “the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. SSL is an industry standard and is used by millions of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their customers.” Confused? Check out this helpful video, which visually explains everything you need to know about SSL. If you haven’t implemented SSL on your website, check out SSLTools.com for helpful information on your next steps.

 

What is SSL? from SSL.com on Vimeo.

As always, If you have any questions or feedback please let us know in the comments section below!

Search Engine Optimization for Mobile Devices

These days, mobile is king. We hardly use desktops because we’re always on the go. When optimizing your site, it’s important to consider how customers are accessing your content. Yes, there is a difference between search engines on a mobile device and search engines on a computer. And yes, you must optimize for both. Here’s the how and why.

How are search engines different on mobile and on the computer?

According to the Clickz article on mobile optimization, there are a few key ways in which results differ. Just a reminder: Google uses an algorithm to determine the most relevant results. This algorithm determines what kind of device the person is using. If he or she is using a mobile device, Google uses a different algorithm to rank the results. The key difference is that the algorithm for mobile places a higher priority on location. This means that results are more “localized.”

So why do I have to optimize for both?

In his article on SEO in 2016, Gaurav Kumar explained, “Google’s algorithm update this year ensured that mobile-friendly websites get a search ranking boost on mobile searches. As more and more people use mobile to surf the Internet, Google decided to make it easier to find relevant, mobile-optimized websites. So, it now uses mobile-friendliness as a factor in ranking search results.” This infographic on mobile optimization shows that 70% of mobile searches lead to action within an hour, so it’s pretty obvious that mobile optimization is a must.

Okay so what can I do to make sure my website is optimized?

Before fiddling around and giving yourself a heart attack, you should check and see if your website is already optimized for mobile. It’s possible that you are ahead of the game! Google has a tool that will allow you to see if your website is mobile friendly. Website software users should follow Google’s special guide to mobile optimization on platforms like WordPress and Wix. There are plenty of places to buy mobile friendly WordPress themes. We like StudioPress and Theme Forest.

What do I do if my site isn’t up to par?  

If you didn’t pass Google’s test it’s probably because you either haven’t optimized for mobile at all, or you’ve optimized using a problematic method. Either way, MOZ has a list of mobile SEO best practices that’s worth taking a look at.

There are three popular ways to optimize your content: Responsive Web Design, Dynamic Serving, and Different URLs. Google has stated that the best way to optimize for mobile is to use a responsive design, so we won’t waste your time going through the other two. The diagram below shows how responsive design works.

responsive web design diagram
Responsive Web Design. Source

 

 

According to MOZ, there are several benefits to using responsive web design. Firstly, you only need one URL. This is beneficial because it makes it easier for customers to remember your address. Having a single website also means that the authority of your brand is consolidated in one place instead of split in two. Secondly, responsive design doesn’t use any redirects, making your page load time quicker and thus improving your rank on search engine results pages. Finally, responsive design doesn’t require you to copy the information on one page to a mobile friendly page. No duplication means no time wasted!

You may be thinking, responsive web design is the best so I bet it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg. We have great news for you! Responsive design is actually the cheapest option out there. Messing around with code may not be your forte. If so, you can buy mobile ready html templates from places like, Creative Market. If you have any questions, please leave drop us a note in the comments section!

 

Making Images Searchable

 

Having pictures and videos on your page is crucial. Readers are more likely to remember information that is presented to them in picture format and photos increase dwell time on your page. Dwell time, as you can probably guess, is the amount of time that people spend on your page. This is important for Search Engine Optimization because the longer the dwell time, the higher the page is ranked on the results page of a search engine. Images themselves can also be optimized for search engines. Yoast’s article on image SEO, is a bit dense for beginners so we will simplify some of the most important tips here.

 

Two adorably tiny precious kittens sitting in coffee mugs
This picture has nothing to do with Search Engine Optimization. Source

The Perfect Picture

Unlike the picture for this article, your image should be relevant to your post. Although pictures of kittens are cute, readers may feel cheated if you can’t deliver the “aww” factor they were looking for. Any diagrams, photos, or videos should serve to enhance your point, not distract from it. You may be tempted just to slap a stock photo in your article, just for the sake of having a picture, but this is not the greatest idea. Stock photos are boring and impersonal. Try to use your own high-quality photos, if you can. If not, try and use stock photos that are engaging rather than boring.

 

Use Your Words

Search engine crawlers have access to a behind-the-scenes layer of information that goes unseen to readers. Search engines use this information to rank results. Computers can’t see pictures the way we do (yet), so we have to describe them. The first way to do this is, admittedly, a bit of a drag, but will help you and the crawlers. When you transfer images from your smartphone or computer, the filename is usually a number. “1286.jpg” doesn’t help you, or the search engine, know what’s inside the file. File names should be brief and descriptive such as, “cupofkittens.jpg”.

 

ALT Text Is Your Friend

ALT text is another way to tell search engines, and people, what your picture is about. When people who are visually impaired use the internet, the text on the page is read to them via computer. Unfortunately, the computer doesn’t have the imagination to describe the picture in the same way a human would. In order to make sure that the visually impaired can enjoy your website, use ALT text to describe the image. Good ALT text also helps crawlers know what the image depicts, which can help you get to the top of the search engine results page. The alt text for the picture above is “Two adorably tiny precious kittens sitting in coffee mugs.” In an SEJ.com article about optimizing photos, Jean Dion stated,

Verbosity might be your friend here, if it helps your readers to understand what the image is about.”

 

Descriptions AKA The Title Tag

According to Yoast’s article on images, the title tag is a good place for “nonessential information.” While it might not be vital for Search Engine Optimization, the proper use of the title tag is vital for your successful integration with social media platforms. Jean Dion notes in her article that the title tag contains the words which are displayed when Pinterest users pin your image. Title text is also the little box of information you see when you hold your mouse over a picture. Unlike ALT text, these descriptions should be succinct i.e. “kittens in mugs.” Be sure to check out Yoast’s ALT text and title tag article for more in-depth information. 

 

Great Captions

The use of captions isn’t just for witty Instagrammers. The combination of useful images with helpful captions arguably makes or breaks an article. Crawlers move through a page similar to a college student. They quickly skim for titles, headers, hyperlinks, images, etc. in order to get a general understanding of what the page is about. It’s important that the items that make up this summary are an accurate depiction of the content. Students and crawlers aren’t the only ones guilty of skimming. In 2012 KissMetric wrote that

“Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”

 

Until computers catch up with us, we’ll have to continue to do some of the hard labor ourselves. Luckily, there are hosting services, such as WordPress which simplify optimizing your images. For those of you brave souls who do the coding themselves, there are plenty of tutorials like this one from w3schools to help you along the way. Please feel free to leave a comment, we’d be happy to answer any questions!

 

 

5 Tips to Help Google Find Your Website

It’s easy to get so caught up in Search Engine Optimization that you forget your target audience-the customer. When optimizing your website it is important that your content is easy to navigate for both crawlers and consumers. This article is going to give you the highlights of Google’s very own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, plus a few examples to help you get a headstart.

 

Tip # 1: Use descriptive titles!

The title of your page is the first line of a search result, make sure it is descriptive and concise. Readers don’t need a bulky 20-word title, but they do need a title that explains what the page contains. Make sure that your page titles are unique and specific. While the title to our article, “Spiders on the Web,” is clever, it does not specify what the article is really about. The title to this article is more helpful for crawlers and people alike.

Search engines look at page titles before they crawl through the content. Titles and headers are not the same and thus need to be coded differently.Titles are different from headings in that there can be multiple headings but there’s only one title. You can signal to a search engine that a heading is a heading by using the appropriate html coding.  There are plenty of tutorials online that will help with formatting headers and titles in html.

html_heading_tags

Image Source

 

Tip #2 : Use Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are a chance for you to advertise to potential customers and are incredibly important in generating click-thrus. This article by MOZ explains meta descriptions in more depth. Sometimes, search engines use meta descriptions as part of a search result. These meta descriptions should be short, about the length of a tweet, and compelling. Similar to titles, it is best if you do not use the same meta description for multiple pages.

meta-description-serp

Image Source

Descriptions are not the only meta tag you can use to specify information on your website. If you want to learn more this tutorial on author and keyword meta tags is quite helpful. In-depth explanations of Google’s meta tags can help you better understand all of your options.

 

Tip #3: Navigation

Make it easy for both users and crawlers to find content. If you use Searchable as an example we have a home page. This is the most visited page on our site because it is (usually) the first page people see. If you look up towards the top we have a menu bar, each item in a menu bar connects to a parent page, within those parent pages there are ‘child’ pages. This clear hierarchy helps search engines (and humans) identify the main themes of your website. It also helps consumers find more information relevant to those themes.  

 

Tip #4 : Hyperlinks

In our previous article about how search engines work, we mentioned that hyperlinks are crucial for your page’s visibility on search engine results pages. Search engines don’t just look at where you are linking, but also how you are linking. Anchor text is incredibly important when creating a hyperlink. The anchor text is the words that are underlined in blue. Try to make sure that the anchor text describes what information you are linking to. Google says to avoid using vague anchor text like, “this article” or “click here.” Don’t hyperlink a paragraph for your anchor text either. A few words should be enough for the crawlers to make the connection. It’s also important to remember that your real target audience is your customers, so anchor text should flow with the sentence instead of hindering the reader’s understanding. To learn more about how to take advantage of hyperlinks, read our article on link building campaigns.

 

Tip #5: Content is king

In their Search Engine Optimization guide, Google states, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factors.” Spelling and grammatical mistakes make it difficult for users to understand your content. That being said, proofreading is key. Clarity and simple sentence structure help readers of varying experience levels enjoy your website. Make your content worthy of  a “share” because the more links you get, the higher up you move on the search engine results page.

 

If you know of any websites that have utilized these tricks paste a link in the comment section below!

Spiders on the Web: A brief guide on the inner workings of search engines

We often take the ability to use a search engine for granted. Google has made search so easy that we do not have to worry about finding information. Googling something we do not know has become second nature to us. We trust Google’s results to be relevant and accurate. In order to best optimize your website for Google, it is helpful to know how the search engine works.

Pre-Google

This article contains a detailed account about the rise of Google, if dense material isn’t your thing continue reading this summary. Early search engines, like AltaVista, would compare search terms to their database and whichever page had the most similar terms would be considered the most relevant. This was problematic because the results weren’t necessarily the most relevant. For example, if you wanted to search Columbia Sportswear, Dick’s Sporting Goods might be the first result, rather than the corporate web page, because they list a lot of Columbia products. The amount of times a keyword was mentioned in the page outweighed other information in determining relevance. Search results weren’t as helpful because users had to filter through the results themselves. Yahoo was different. They used human judgement to aid their search engine’s results. Yahoo hired people to read through webpages to pull keywords and write summaries. In 1997, Google changed the game by offering better results, without clutter. Instead of looking at the text of a website, Google observed the patterns of hyperlinks, specifically, the number and type of incoming and outgoing hyperlinks. 

Search Now

When you type your search query into Google, the search engine sends out little programs called crawlers or spiders. These crawlers jump from page to page by following links. As the spiders travel, they send a copy of each page to the search engine. Google then creates an index of the words on that page. Algorithms are complex mathematical equations which are designed to find hints to understand what you are searching for. There are plenty of great videos on Youtube, like this one, that will help you visualize the search process. Going back to our example, when you type in “Columbia Sportswear” on Google, the first search result will be the manufacturer’s website, not a retailer’s (i.e. Dick’s Sporting Goods). This is because of Google’s algorithm, which gives more weight to a company’s homepage.

Why it all matters

According to this article, less than 6% of users clicked on a link on the second page of Google results.  As a small business owner, it is crucial for you to maximize the chances of your website being on that first page. The process of making your website search-engine-friendly is called Search Engine Optimization, or as it’s commonly referred to, SEO. As the name suggests, Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your website’s content for Google’s crawlers. How often websites are crawled depends on how often the content on the website changes. Therefore, frequent updates to your website are essential to driving traffic.