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Moving websites on shared hosting is easy, moving email on shared hosting is hard so…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | April 20, 2019

mailbox photo

Photo by Flickr user Jo@net

This post is about choosing a 3rd party to host your company’s email instead of using the free email service that comes with almost all shared hosting plans.

I got a call on Friday from a former client, a small, highly-technical business with a handful of very large, old-school Fortune 100 customers. Their site and email has been on BlueHost for more than 15 years!  Unfortunately, the network address on his server was recently blacklisted.  His site and email were fine of course.  However as a shared-hosting customer his site in on a large server that’s shared with hundreds or even thousands of other accounts.  One of the other accounts was hacked or otherwise got blacklisted for spamming and so he and everyone else on his server ended up blacklisted too!  As a result, his biggest client’s IT department started bouncing all his email!  Yikes!

This is another very good reason why it’s important for businesses to host their websites, email, and domain registration with different companies.

As a web developer my biggest considerations for choosing email hosting are

  • spam filtering, which is good,
  • blacklisting, which is bad, and
  • spam-filtering email from the contact form, which is also bad.

That last one’s kind of tricky so here’s a quick explanation: an email provider should be able to understand when your web server sends email from the same domain name your mail server is managing.  If it doesn’t understand this then it’ll assume your web server is trying to spoof or spam using your email address.  Depending on your mail provider it can be easier or harder to “reassure” them that your web server is authorized to send you email.

Moving websites is easy. Moving email’s a serious nuisance. No matter who you go with, if you have multiple email addresses and especially if you use 3rd-party mail clients like Outlook, iMail, Thunderbird, etc., at the very least you’ll have to change their IMAP and POP settings when you move your email.

Google’s GSuite for Business and Microsoft Office 365 have excellent spam filtering and zero problems with blacklisting, and for roughly $5.00 per mailbox they also offer excellent interfaces and a ton of goodies like calendars, office-productivity tools, and storage.  They’re my top two choices… but there’s a reason I almost always recommend Google’s GSuite.

Google’s server settings are super easy to set up, so bouncing website contact email is rarely a problem. Many cPanel hosting plans let you change the settings for Google with one click!

It’s another story with Microsoft Office 365.  Unless you’re willing to give me administrative access to the client’s backend Microsoft 365, on the other hand, is a giant pain to deal with when it comes to getting all the settings right on a web server. If you don’t get everything just right they bounce your contact form notifications and other email from your website. I mean, it’s awesome that they take security that seriously, but it’s still super annoying.  (To be technical about it they’re so strict they recommend you use their nameservers and add A and CNAME records to whoever’s doing your actual web hosting.

So strictly from my selfish, egocentric WordPress web-hosting point of view, while Google and Microsoft are the #1 and #2 choices for never-move-it-again email hosting, Google’s GSuite is my first choice and Microsoft 365 is a distant second.

Note: if you’re not ready to make a change this post can help you make the most of your shared-hosting email.

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We like to help people with slow websites…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | March 20, 2019

Sample GTmetrix results before and after - performance rating from F to A, from 44% to 99%, from 9.5 second upload to 1.8, from 6.6 megabytes to 1.77

When we bring a new client onboard for a site cleanup we use the excellent GTMetrix tool to assess site performance before we begin and after we’ve worked on it.  We’re always proud when we can see results like this.

This client came to us with an “orphan website,” one that their previous developer had mostly finished and then disappeared.  The site was built using the resource-intensive DIVI theme, hosted on a middle-of-the-road shared-hosting server.

What we did in this case, in addition to “loading down their site” with security-monitoring and SEO plugins was…

  • Add and configure a good caching plugin
  • Optimized all the images so they’d download faster
  • Cleaned up and optimized the database to reduce query times
  • Replaced a number of crusty, slow-performing plugins with newer, much more efficient ones
  • Hand-resized some of the images to better fit the page (reducing some image sizes by more than 90%)
  • “Minified” and consolidated helper files (css, javascript) to reduce the total number of files downloaded from 114 to a respectable 34T

We’re pretty happy with the results before and after: Changing the performance rating from F to A, the PageSpeed score from 44% to 99%, the page load time from 9.5 second upload to 1.8, and the page size from 6.6 megabytes to 1.77.

You can do most of those things yourself with the right high-quality, open-source plugins from the WordPress repository.  Or get in touch if you’d rather we do it for you!

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Why Has Your Website Traffic Dropped?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | February 11, 2019

I haven’t re-designed, but my traffic is dropping!

Website traffic is every business owner’s concern. When traffic is dropping, sometimes the first thing to do is PANIC, just kidding, the very first thing to do is NOT panic. What you should do is go into your Google Analytics to see what exactly is happening. Not comfortable with Google Analytics? Check out this great guide to your analytics page.

Check your code!

Even the simplest and smallest of changes in your website can cause a break in your links or accidental deletion of your tracking code. If you’re using WordPress, you can always start with the Broken Link tool in the “Tools” section of your sidebar.

Server Overload

Web servers have the ability to take on too much at one time, parts of your website might make your server slow down or even crash completely. If web traffic is down, there’s a chance your server is too slow and not loading in a decent time.

User-Generated Spam

While it sounds unlikely, no site is spam-proof! To check if you’ve been hacked, you can go to Google’s comprehensive list of all the necessary steps to bring your site back to life!

Duplicate Content

Content is your best friend! Duplicate content throughout your site is simple to spot. Having as much original content as possible will help your site by becoming more valuable to Google. There are simple plugins to help you catch duplicate content in your site.

Looking to find more reasons your website traffic is down? Check out Forbes’ List of other common reasons your traffic might be down.

Real Basics can help analyze your site fully and find the real killer of your SEO for you! Give us a call today to start on your path to fixing your site and your traffic!

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Setting Realistic Website Goals for 2019!

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | January 14, 2019

 

New Year, New Site

The number one thing website owners want to change when the New Year rolls around is to update their theme. That is to update the website’s look or change up the layout all together. However, there’s more to make out of an annual update! Here are a few steps better suited for your website than a new design.

  • Focus on increasing leads
  • Grow your email list & customer base
  • Increase site traffic and successful conversion rates
  • Increase your returning customers and blog engagement

A great article by engeniusweb.com has an infographic that helps with website goals!

Make sure you don’t make outrageous goals, but something like 15%-25% is a reasonable goal for each.

 

Now that you’ve set your goals, how do you track them?

Lucky for you, Google Analytics has your answer! If you haven’t set up your website analytics through Google, it’s easy to do and will help you at every turn on tracking your new website goals for 2019!

Look a little too overwhelming? Real Basics can help set up all your goals and website analytics with your new and improved website. If you host your website with Real Basics, not only will you get security and safety with your website, you’ll also be able to contact us day or night to help make sure your site is always up and always bringing in the traffic you need! Give us a call for a quote today!

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Are Millennials Real? How to Market your Website to the Next Generation

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | December 26, 2018

When you throw words around like “Millennials” it tends to get an eye roll from either Millenials themselves, or everyone who is tired of hearing about what else they’ve ruined this week. However, they’re making a big impact in every aspect of the economy. Millennials technically make up ¼ of the US population with a total of 77 million. (Nielsen). In addition to being one of the most influential generations, they’re also one of the smartest! Millennials are the best-educated group of young adults in US history, with ⅓ of older millennials (ages 26-33) having earned at least a four-year college degree. (Pew Research Center).

So how do you keep your website relevant to a smart and tech-savvy crowd?

  1. Mobile Friendly: Tech-savvy means on the move and always on the phone. Keeping your website mobile friendly will make sure to reach the right audience. All plugins and key components of a mobile-friendly website are important to keep up-to-date. 66% are confident that the information they find on mobile devices is the same on a desktop (Google).
  2.   Speed is Key: Millennials have a sense of urgency. If they don’t find what they’re looking for on your site within one or two clicks, they are likely to leave and go to a competitor’s site instead. The fastest wins the race and the sale.  Make sure your copy is succinct and easily understood, and all major questions are answered as quickly as possible.
  3. Buying incentives: 90% of millennials look for coupons while buying anything online. Aim for attractive CTAs in the right places displaying offers or first-time visitor deals. Updated e-stores are important as well. 15% of millennial smartphone owners make online purchases on their smartphones multiple times per week, plus another 15% make smartphone purchases weekly. (Fluent) Not only does it mean your website needs to be mobile friendly, but user-friendly too!
  4.  Means of contact: The millennials want to know all the possible ways to connect with you – a mere contact phone number won’t suffice. Giving them your email, your Instagram page, your Twitter handle etc. ensures there are multiple ways through which they can reach you. 66% of millennials follow a company or brand on Twitter and 64% like a company or brand on Facebook to score a coupon or discount. (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth).
  5. Minimalism: The new business generation hates clutter on a website and they won’t make an extra effort to gain clarity from clutter. Less is more when designing your UX.

Tired of dealing with your slow and out-of-date website? Real Basics can help update it to a faster speed and cleaner design. Don’t want to overhaul just yet? No problem, consider our ongoing maintenance package. For your first FREE consultation, give us a call today!

 

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Update for December 2018: Signs of Naughty and Nice Websites

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | December 17, 2018


Photo by kevin dooley

Two lists with a seasonal flair from web security provider Sucuri!

“Naughty” features include outdated software, resused passwords, every user is an Administrator, and no automatic backups.  They also point out that if you’ve got more than one website it’s a security risk if they’re all kept in the same folders on your server.  (That’s standard practice for shared-hosting setups like GoDaddy or Bluehost.)  Naughty features according to Securi include having all default settings (allowing anyone to create an account, for instance!) and not having strong security for login attempts.

We’d add that sites should have the latest server software (databases, programming languages) as well as a “green lock” security certificate to protect site visitor privacy.  Note: quite a few hosting companies should get coal in their stockings for not updating their servers or offering free security certificates.

“Nice” features include keeping all site and server software updated, backed up, and secured, only one Administrator’s account with everyone including the owner using an Editor’s account for day-to-day use, having only those plugins and themes necessary to support the features you need, and routine security scans.

Some of the other features on Securi’s list include possibly self-serving features that their plugins and cloud-services happen to provide.  And while we agree those can be a good idea too we’re not yet convinced they’re make-or-break.

Not to put in a plug or anything but if there’s a website on your holiday shopping list that needs a year-end checkup we’d love to help.

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WordPress 5.0 will be cool, but waiting a week for WordPress 5.0.1 will be worth it

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | December 6, 2018

WordPress 5.0 introduced the new Gutenberg editor

The new Gutenberg blog editor is just one of the nice improvements that comes with WordPress 5.0.

It’s a very big change though.  And while it’s been tested by thousands of users they were still making bug fixes and feature changes almost up to the last minute.

That might be par for the course, but in my experiments so far I’ve noticed several problems…

  • There can be multiple “Edit Page” options in the administration bar depending on whether you’re using the “Classic Editor” plugin or page builders.
  • Not all themes and plugins have been updated to take advantage of the new editor or those pesky late bug fixes and last-minute feature changes
  • Even the experts have only had a few hours to assess this “final” version
  • Due to ridiculous timing, WordPress 5.0 was released just as many major developers were on their way to WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville, TN.  (Instead of in their development offices.)

The WordPress developers themselves have said they expect to be releasing minor bug-fixing versions of 5.0 (i.e. 5.0.1., 5.0.2, etc.) roughly once a week

My strong advice?  Wait just a week or two before upgrading to let everyone else catch up.

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Your Small Business Needs a Professional Website

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | November 28, 2018

Websites are more important than EVER!

Unless you’re not interested in growing your business or brand, you need a website.

The ease of the online community today is a major threat for businesses that are behind the times. Research has shown that more customers research shops online more than they do just walking in. “Of those polled, 36.4% said they often check out the store online prior to visiting, compared to 7.2%, who said they don’t.”

Other than statistically, reasons you need a website for your small business include:

  • Showcasing your products or services
  • Access both a local and global audience
  • Become a top Google search
  • Make your marketing a breeze
  • Provide a social media platform for customers
  • Become a trusted expert in your field
  • Harness the power of customer reviews!

Last but not least, using tools like WordPress to help build your site makes it all the more affordable and easy. Not sure where to start and what kind of site you want? Take a look at these great design inspirations!

Real Basics can help you build your small business website and put you on the map! (Google Maps to be exact). Give us a call today to get a free consultation!

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Pexels Partners with WordPress.com to Create a FREE Stock Photo Option

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | September 5, 2018

Great news WordPress users! Struggle to find Stock Photos no more!

Have you ever had the difficult task of finding the perfect (yet free) stock image for your website or blog? I know I have! Even at this very moment I don’t know what the image will be for this post. Will it be an interacting office image like the one on the great WP Tavern article here? Or will it be whatever image from Pexel I can find that has to do with computers and pictures? Can you search “Stock Image” in a stock image site? Questions for a later day, I’m sure.

The geniuses at WordPress.com and Pexel have now partnered to create a free, diverse, and vast library of stock images right in your media bank on WordPress! For many websites and blogs, this is an upgrade everyone’s been anticipating. The feedback on the library has been overwhelmingly positive so far and WordPress.com users have already downloaded more than 1 million images since the free stock image library was introduced.

WordPress.com users can access the images via the Add Media button.  Try it today!

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Blogging about Blog Posting for Blog Posts – What to Really Blog About!

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | June 4, 2018

Blogging Got You Down?

Worry not! Real Basics knows your pain!

Blogging on a weekly, monthly, or even daily basis is a lot to take in! Researching, writing, and re-writing all while keeping up your business seems impossible, but a recent article on contentequalsmoney.com lays out the simple question, “I’ve set up a business blog, now what?” Well, let’s look into specifics:

How do I come up with new ideas for every post?

The answer is a lot simpler than you’d think! Instead of writing about what you personally think people want to read, make your experience a little more scientific with the Google Keyword Planner. Start simply by searching words or phrases associated with your brand, products, or services your business provides. When Google provides this list to you, just pick and choose keywords to make your topics of blog posts! This method gives your blog posts the relevance to your readers because you’re now appealing to what they’re searching. The Keyword Planner also lets you build out charts to track keywords and phrases. Once you’ve built your keyword search structure, you can dive deeper into bidding on Google Adwords to boost your visibility online! We know this is a daunting task knowing how and what to spend your money on, and Real Basics is happy to assist in building your campaigns!

Find your Audience

Chances are, there’s a blog out there similar to yours. While that may be discouraging to think about, it’s actually a good sign. It means there’s an audience for you! Your business would not be successful if it wasn’t for you being able to sell your product to an audience, whatever type or group of people that may be. The 2nd best way to know what your audience is interested in, is to look into what the big blogs are talking about! Seeing what kind of opinions bigger blogs have makes it easy to agree or disagree with them in your own writing.

We know blogging is hard and knowing your audience is a lot of work! Real Basics can help you manage everything on your website from SEO, search words, blogging topics, style upgrades and much more! Learn about all our services HERE

Happy Blogging!

 

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