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Blog post comments: threat, menace, or golden opportunity for community building

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | September 28, 2017

Cool discussion of the pros and cons of blog comments (with numbers and case studies!) by Brenda Barron, blogging at WPMUDEV

It’s exciting when readers of your blog take the time to leave comments on your posts. It’s often what makes the arduous process of creating content feel totally worth it at the end of the day.

Of course, you could always see how many people visited your posts in Google Analytics, but there is something especially rewarding about seeing them engage with it right on the page by leaving a comment.

Then again, there are times when those comments just aren’t welcome.

Source: Brenda Barron

Here’s my take on comments.

I’m going to say right up front that I don’t have comments turned on on RealBasics.com. But I’ll add that in the past I’ve had sites with very extensive user engagement.

If keyword searches are the only measure of success then comments, and the user engagement they represent, aren’t worth the effort. (I’m not even sure I’d want people finding my site based on keywords found only in comments!)

That said, by all accounts Google ranks sites in general and pages in particular on more than raw keywords, don’t they? They pay close attention to user engagement. That includes both time spent on a page as well as interaction on a page as proxies for interest in content. So, again, if you cared only about SEO ranking there are intangible benefits to keeping comments open (and curated!) beyond raw keywords.

If instead actual business, reputation, and loyalty have value, well moderate user engagement can be very beneficial to word-of-mouth marketing, organic links from other sites and platforms, collegial exchange, reputation enhancement, and repeat business.

On all but the busiest blogs it takes no more time to moderate and respond to user comments on a blog than it does on other social media. It also doesn’t take that much time to write posts meant to increase engagement. So if one is already in conversation with users on, say, Facebook and Twitter I’d say they were missing an opportunity to engage on their sites as well.

Again, it’s my understanding that Google’s algorithms “appreciate” when site owners respond to user comments. (In other words engagement with users and not just user engagement.)

In terms of product development and refinement engagement by and with users, while it might not benefit SEO, can be an extraordinarily inexpensive and useful tool for feedback, troubleshooting, trial balloons, and market analysis.

So when I’m advising clients one of the first things I’ll assess is whether they’ve got the capacity and interest to engage with their engaged users — not just to moderate bogus comments but to reply, suggest, clarify, and acknowledge legitimate ones.

So… if they’re up for it I recommend clients try it out. If they don’t seem to have the time or temperament for it, as most don’t, I just don’t bring it up. (One’s website should be a source of business opportunities, not more stress.)

Comments are great but you can’t just turn them on and expect to get anything beyond spam and trolling. It’s an investment of time and effort that can pay off. But only if you’ve got the time and can make the effort.

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Think your Website doesn’t need a Promo Video? Think again!

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | September 24, 2017

When creating a new website or promoting your business, video usually isn’t on the top of your list. However, a recent study shows that 45% of businesses use promotional explanation videos on their home pages and 61% of businesses surveyed said they use video as a marketing tool. Using promotional video is an important tool for both your website and your business overall.

You can use video in a number of ways on your website! Here’s some awesome benefits:

  • Make your video upfront and visible! Video content on your website is an awesome way to introduce your brand and your service to your clients. It should be located on your home page so your visitors know exactly who you are and what you’re all about!
  • Video marketing can boost your site’s SEO! By adding video to your landing pages, and content offers, it’s easy to improve your company’s SEO value and improve your click-through rates across the board.
  • You can inject your personality in your videos! Visitors to your sites love to know what you’re about and experience everything you have to offer which helps build trust, and connect with viewers on an emotional level.
  • Video is more memorable than written content. As consumers, we’re exposed to thousands of marketing plays and ads every day. Consumers are growing increasingly “blind” to banner ads and text ads, however, it’s much harder to ignore video.

Due to the viral nature, easy access, and great built-in accessibility, promotional video is becoming one of the most important aspects of the internet today. It has a great ability to drive sales and showcase personal emotion to your customers. If you’re looking for new ways to stand out in today’s competitive online environment, it’s time to explore video marketing for your website.

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Has Your Account Been Breached? How Would You Know??

By David Innes (Admin) | September 14, 2017

It’s more common than you’d think!

Today, millions of websites are vulnerable to attacks including top brands like LinkedIn, Adobe, Target and more. However, when companies refuse to release or even admit their mistakes, it can leave the rest of us out in the open with our usernames and passwords.

Luckily, there’s a site that helps us know a little more about these attacks. The website Have I been pwned is a great source to use if you are wondering, like we all are, if your information has ever been in danger.

Now that you know where to go to check your account information, lets go through some of the biggest company data breaches of all time!

  1. Yahoo  –   Yahoo could actually hold the top 2 biggest spots, but let’s count it as one. Yahoo announced that data associated with at least 500 million accounts had been stolen. Three months later, it then disclosed ANOTHER breach – more than 1 billion accounts.
  2. Myspace  –  A Russian hacker, who goes by the name Peace, has wreaked quite the havoc on both Myspace and LinkedIn. Myspace confirmed a breach of user names and passwords for about 360 million accounts.
  3. Target  –  Roughly 40 million shoppers had their credit and debit card information stolen due to a data breach at Target that took place in the three weeks after Thanksgiving that in 2013. Target later agreed to pay $10 million to customers who suffered from the breach and tens of millions more to U.S. banks who lost money.

Curious about more breaches? Why not check out this amazing chart with all different types of data breaches here.

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Google Chrome Now Displays Warnings for Unencrypted Websites

By David Innes (Admin) | September 6, 2017

Google Chrome with unencrypted site

 

You heard that right!

It is estimated that Google Chrome has over 1 billion users today. Given that it’s one of the most popular and up-to-date web browsers, I am glad they’re finally taking a step in the direction of alerting users when a site is not secure. This labeling system is currently active as of January 2017 and focuses mainly on unencrypted sites that transmit passwords or asks for credit card information. This is just the first step Google is making towards discouraging the use of sites that don’t use encryption. Google has reported that today, more than half of the websites visited by Chrome users are already encrypted.

The updated version of Chrome 56 will be the first version of web browser that will alert the user of this status as well as working in the future towards a safer internet experience. Russell Brandom of The Verge lays out Chromes next steps, “In the years to come, the team plans to warn Chrome users away from all sites served over unencrypted HTTP, beginning with Incognito mode ‘where users may have higher expectations of privacy.’ Planned changes include labeling all HTTP pages with the red triangle warning symbol, currently only used for irregularities in HTTPS.”

What can you do today?

Update your Chrome browser (if it does not automatically do so), would be the first step. We all want an internet that’s safer and more secure for the every day user. Lucky for us, Google is taking security to the next level and will continue to do so in the coming years. Contact us here at RealBasics to help you navigate the confusing and sometimes scary world of website encryption. We are here to help make your website experience even better!

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Brand new site for Jenny Penney Photos

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | May 6, 2017
Jenny Penney - Standard Site

Jenny Penney is a well-established local portrait and family-documentary photographer.

Jennifer Penney Boyle is an established portrait photographer in the Seattle area. We’d been already helping on and off with her main site, JenniferBoylePhotography.com. When she showed us her design for her new family-documentary website, JennyPenneyPhoto.com we were thrilled to pitch in.

We built the framework for the site using the lively logo and design elements from our frequent collaborators at Chalkbox Creative. Jenny —
a true do-it-yourselfer — added the photos and content. We’re really happy with the end result.

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The Worst SiteGround Hosting is Better than the Best GoDaddy Shared Hosting

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | April 8, 2017
Image by Flickr user Steve Depolo

Image by Flickr user Steve Depolo

I’m going to be real blunt here and say don’t use GoDaddy for shared hosting.  Just don’t.  I’m going to go further and say if you are using GoDaddy for shared hosting stop.  Just stop.

I hate saying it because there are some very nice people at GoDaddy.  Great support people.  The company is really committed to WordPress and they contribute a lot to the community.

But their hosting is terrible!  It’s slow!  As I’ve said in the past GoDaddy shared hosting is unnecessarily and arbitrarily slow!

But you know what else?  For cheap, small-scale shared hosting GoDaddy is also ridiculously expensive!  Here’s what I mean when I say that.

Last weekend, I updated a client’s site with some fairly simple capabilities to their GoDaddy account.  Those simple changes completely bogged down their server.   I suggested (as I usually do) that they needed to upgrade their service level from “Deluxe hosting” to “Deluxe hosting Level 3.”  Then I looked at the price of upgrading.  And then I started looking at other hosting options.  In the end, after a short conversation, I ended up moving them another cheap hosting company, SiteGround.com, for less than GoDaddy would have charged to “upgrade” them to… a still really miserable performance level.

Since last weekend I’ve moved two other clients.  All three client’s sites now run well.

  • Much, much faster.
  • For less money!
  • With fast, constantly updated software (for instance GoDaddy’s inexplicably unwilling to upgrade their servers to safer and more secure versions of the PHP programming language.)
  • With free SSL security certificates, which Google, Firefox, and other browsers now warn users about if you don’t have one.  (GoDaddy charges almost as much for a security certificate as some other sites charge for decent hosting plus a certificate!)
  • Without constantly running out of “I/O Usage” and other “resources.”  (I/O Usage is a bizarre bottleneck I’ve only really seen with GoDaddy hosting.)

So… yeah.  Much as I like talking to the support people at GoDaddy (they’re really nice) the fact of the matter is I almost never have to call support for other hosting companies.  But GoDaddy?  Yeah, maybe all you really need to know is that I’ve got GoDaddy’s support number on speed dial.

So I’m just going to say it one more time: Don’t use GoDaddy for shared hosting.  If you do use GoDaddy for shared hosting stop.  Just stop.

Switch to someone else.  Almost anyone else!

I’ve been recommending SiteGround for the last year or so.  I can get a small commission if you sign up with them  so in just a moment I’m going to give you an affiliate link.  But I think switching away is a big enough benefit that I’m going to give you a non-affiliate link too.  (The price for you will be the same regardless, I’m just willing to give up my commission if you’re willing to find someone else.)

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Choosing WordPress over SquareSpace isn’t Quite a No-Brainer But…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | March 24, 2017

I admit we’re very partial to WordPress here at RealBasics.com.  It’s easy to setup, easy to use, easy to extend, easy to maintain, and of course from here it’s very easy to find a company that can help you keep everything up to date.

And so we’re pretty sympathetic with this rundown of the advantages vs. disadvantages of owning and operating your own WordPress website from Jenni McKinnon at the WPMU Developer blog.

27 Reasons Why WordPress Crushes Squarespace Every Time

If you’ve landed on this post because you’re deciding whether to go with WordPress or Squarespace, let me make your decision easier for you: choose WordPress every time.
While both provide a platform for you to build a website, they are vastly different. WordPress is used by more than 27% of all websites on the internet while Squarespace, on the other hand, powers 1.2 million websites. WordPress is available both as hosted and self-hosted options (we’ll dig into that further down), while Squarespace is available only as a hosted version.

Source: WPMU Developers blog

Here are some of the reasons that make most sense to me are

  • You can have unlimited pages on your own WordPress site.  Squarespace limits you to 20.
  • You can add any plugin, theme, or even custom code to your own site.  Squarespace not so much.
  • You can upload licensed stock photos to your own site.  The post says this is a violation of terms of service on Squarespace.
  • WordPress is SEO friendly right out of the box, and you can add sophisticated SEO plugins if you want even more control.  Squarespace’s SEO capabilities are pretty weak.

I did put a little “But” in the title though.

If you’ve got a super low budget then SquareSpace might be right for you.  If you’re on a really limited budget that can work too.  And if you’re just in a hurry and you really want to knock something out quickly and then forget about it?  Squarespace is ok for that.

One nice thing about SquareSpace, though, is they know you might upgrade to another solution.  And so they make it (relatively) easy to export (most of) your content in a format that’s compatible with WordPress.

We hope you’ll choose WordPress every time, same as well over 100 million other site owners.  But if you don’t?  Squarespace isn’t the worst alternative.  And… if you ever change your mind?  We like migrating sites into WordPress and when the time comes we’d be happy to help you migrate yours.

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What is Alt Text and why do I want to add them to all images?

By David Innes (Admin) | February 18, 2017

So when you insert images with WordPress there’s a box marked “alt text.”  First question would be what should you do with it?

Alt text is what you would see if

  • for some reasons the picture didn’t load at all on a browser. (This sometimes happens with news readers as well.
  • on devices for the visually impaired and/or visually distracted (screen readers for drivers, for instance.)
  • on some browsers the alt text will appear in a popup when you hover the mouse over an image for a few moments
  • you were the Google indexing tool when it scans the page. It will also use alt text to how to index the image itself. (With well-phrased alt text people can find your site through Google’s image search.)

So two tricks for alt text

  • Use a straight up description of the image (e.g. “a photo of Bob’s cluttered desk.”)
  • Use a narrative description that flows with the rest of the text on the page (e.g. “our client Bob’s desk was cluttered when we started working with him.”)

The first might be a little more useful for Google Images, the second for standard Google searches. Either one is fine.

What is the alt-text box and where did it come from.

The alt-text option has been around almost as long as there have been images on the web.  It was initially proposed for use with text-only terminals and MS-DOS computers.  Not a bad idea since at the time these were still very common.  Soon after, though, they were added to the official World Wide Web specification as an accommodation for visually impaired web users.

Even the most indifferent author still might care about Google, the biggest “visually impared” website visitor in the world.  So use it or lose it.

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Can you be sure WordPress will work for your small business?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | January 23, 2017

Both the Obama Foundation and News Corp Australia use WordPress

From opposite ends of the planet (and opposite ends of the political spectrum) it turns out that both the new Obama Foundation website and Rupert Murdoch’s entire Australian division of News Corp are running WordPress at scale.

For something that started as a pretty limited blogging tool WordPress has grown into a serious, and seriously capable content management system.

Here are the links  — see for yourself!

 

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It’s finally time to start adding secure certificates to your site

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | January 17, 2017

We’ve known for a while that Google was going to start dinging sites that didn’t encrypt their connections to protect their user’s private communications.  Now we have a date: Jan. 31.  If your hosting company isn’t yet providing nearly free certificates, or totally free ones from Let’s Encrypt or a similar certificate authority then… might be time to think about switching to a better host!

In a pithily titled post, Imminent: Non-HTTPS Sites Labeled “Not Secure” by Chrome, the security firm WordFence says it’s time to get off the… well… fence on SSL certificates for websites that have user logins or ecommerce.

Imminent: Non-HTTPS Sites Labeled ‘Not Secure’ by Chrome This entry was posted in General Security, WordPress Security on January 17, 2017 by Mark Maunder   15 Replies    On approximately January 31st of this month, version 56 of the Chrome web browser will be released. There is a significant change in the way it displays websites that are not using HTTPS, also known as SSL. This change may confuse your site visitors or surprise you if you are not expecting it.

Starting with the release of Chrome 56 this month, any website that is not running HTTPS will have a message appear in the location bar that says ‘Not Secure’ on pages that collect passwords or credit cards. It will look like this:

Google Chrome will begin displaying warnings about unsecured sites on Jan. 31.

Source: WordFence blog

If you read the original post you’ll see that over time Google will be tightening it’s requirements even further.  Eventually they’ll put up similar warnings for all plain, unencrypted sites.

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