Guide to WordPress Security

WordPress security is a growing concern as the popularity of this software continues to grow. The great thing about open source software such as WordPress is that it is available to everyone for free. The worst thing about open source software is that it is available to everyone for free. Although this great piece of software has many developers working on improving it and creating new plugins all the time, it is also extremely vulnerable to hacker attacks because everyone has open access to the source code. For this reason Open Source software such as WordPress receives a lot of security updates for each new version release. However, this is not enough and WordPress site owners can do a lot to increase the WordPress security of their sites.

The WordPress team has made the installation and launch of a new website very easy and fast. Some hosting companies even offer one-click installation. This simplified installation process can make one easily overlook the security steps needed to make their WordPress site very secure, which can take some effort. Whether you are using an open source CMS such as WordPress or custom built CMS, security is always a serious concern.

Here are the top tips for protecting your WordPress site:

Basic WordPress Security Tips

1. Use a good Web hosting company with proven track record. A good hosting provider will ensure their servers have the latest security patches, PHP/MySQL updates, firewall, brute force attack prevention, and other security features. One that specializes in WordPress business hosting is ideal.

2. Install your WordPress core admin files in some other directory than the root one.

3. Change the table prefix from wp_ to something else.

4. Use a very strong password for the database user.

5. Also use a strong password for your WP login and choose a username much less obvious than ‘admin’. WordPress now comes with a password strength indicator. Make sure that it shows that your chosen password is strong.

6. Delete the pre-installed pages, posts, and plugins.

7. Use only premium themes and plugins. Make sure that the plugin you install has good reviews and a good number of active installs. If the plugin is a security risk it likely will not have many installs and if it does, it will have a low star rating. Poor plugins have lazy or buggy code that can be easily exploited by hackers.

8. Use a good captcha plugin for ALL of your forms, including your wp-admin login. You can install a Google Recaptcha integration plugin or another anti-spam plugin keeping in mind point number 7 above.

9. Always update your core WordPress files, themes and plugins to the latest versions as soon as they become available. You may want to install “Advanced Automatic Updates” to help you automate the process.

10. Keep your computer virus-clean by regularly doing a virus scan with anti-virus software that also is regularly updated. Some hackers can get your password and username through malware installed on your computer.

Advanced WordPress Security Tips

1. Install and configure an anti-malware firewall plugin.

2. Activate 2 factor authentication (2FA). This is another step in your login process that gives you an extra peace of mind. You can search for 2 factor authentication plugins through WordPress plugin marketplace or Google. The two most popular currently are “Clef” and “Two-Factor Authentication (Google Authenticator)”. Both use your smartphone (iOS or Android) as the second layer of authentication.

3. Install an SSL on your website hosting account.

4. Ensure that none of you subdirectories can be viewed via http by creating a blank index.html(or php) file in all subdirectories.

These are some of the key ways you can beef up your WordPress security and stay protected from malicious attacks.

Tips for Writing SEO Web Content

Content is one of the most critical aspects of SEO. Without quality content it is near impossible to rank well on the search results pages. This is because the Web is all about content. Content is what pushes up the value of the website and the search engines. Search engines want to present the best content for the search query possible and weed out the garbage. This is a constant battle and search engines change their algorithms to seek to improve search results. For long term SEO, content should be the priority of any website.

First and foremost, when creating content, keep the best interest of your visitors in mind. Creating compelling content for your visitors will have optimum impact in SEO. You want to create content that people will want to bookmark, link to from the blogs, like or plus one on Facebook and Google, and return to the site. This will have a great impact on SEO.

Primary content can be broken down into these aspects: text, images, and video. Try to use the combination of all three as much as possible. Visitors and search engines love all three.

When it comes to text content, be sure to include your most important keywords in headings and subheadings. That means including them in <H1>, <H2>, etc., tags. Use the exact keyword in the text as much as logically is reasonable without overdoing it. The text should make sense when being read by a person and not sound like you are stuffing keywords for the sake of search engines. This would be counterproductive as search engines are become more and more smart to figure out these tactics.

Images should use ALT tags to describe the content of the image and file naming should reflect the content of the images as well. These items should be exact matches for or related to the keywords you are targeting on the page.

Videos are also great sources of content. One way you can optimize them for SEO is by creating a YouTube account and upload videos then imbed them in your pages. On YouTube you can also add title, description, and keywords or tags. Obviously you would want to include your website URL in the description.

Create Fresh Content

There are many ways you can produce fresh content. The chief way is by having a blog and updating it on a regular basis. You can have a blog externally hosted (i.e. at another domain name, blogger.com, wordpress.com , etc.). However it is recommended that you have a blog at the website you want to build traffic to. This way all content you add will directly benefit your site. You don’t need to write every day, but spending a couple of hours or more on your blog a week can go a long way to improve your traffic and search engine ranking.

Don’t know what to write about? There are many ideas floating out there: write a review, write about an experience, write about a news item (scan websites related to your business for ideas), write about an idea you have the would save time or money for your audience/customers, etc. Your blog post does not need to be long, 300-500 words is enough. Blogging is by far the most popular way of leveraging content for SEO benefits. But it is not the only way.

Can you take photos of anything related to your business? Posting them online in galleries is an excellent way to gain attention to your services and build traffic. How about video? It is easy now to have a page on sites like YouTube, upload videos you take on your camera and embed them in your website. If you can think of a Web-based service you can offer to your visitors, this is an excellent way to offer greater value to them, which in turn increases the ranking of your site on the search engines.

Search Engine Optimization Basics

If you opt to build your own site either using one of the online website builders or software such as Adobe Dreamweaver or similar, learning basic search engine optimization (SEO for short) is something you can pick up quickly. Ranking well, on the other hand, is an art and takes time to master. In this article we discuss the basics of SEO for beginners. There are 3 basic phases to SEO: keyword research, on-site optimization, and off-site optimization.

Keyword Research

Before you set to do any SEO, you need to perform keyword research. As an expert in your field you may feel that you know what keywords your site should be optimized for. But you must resist this temptation. Keyword research will tell you what keywords your prospects are actually using in Web searches to find your information, products or services. If you optimize for the wrong keywords it will be a waste of time and/or money that will not bring any results.

Keyword research is a critical aspect of your SEO. It will tell you what keywords are being used to search for information, products, and services you are offering. Since Google is the biggest search engine out there we will use its data to help us understand what search phrases or keywords are most popular.

The first and easiest way you can identify popular search terms is by starting to type into the Google search field. Google will then display search suggestions based on your entry. This will tell you the most popular search queries based on your text string.

Another free method is using Google’s keyword tool, part to their Adwords service, located at https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool.

The aforementioned keyword research will tell you what search terms are being commonly used on Google. If you want to go expand your keyword research to other search engines and even find out what keywords are being used by your competitors, then you will need to go the paid service route. To find out who offers what, just do a search for “keyword research” on your favorite search engine.

Do this step right and you’re on your way to making your SEO efforts pay off.

On-site Search Engine Optimization

This has to do with and Web page content for the keywords from your keyword research phase. SEO must impact the meta tags, alt tags, and link structure in your HTML code. This phase also involves the regular creation of new and original content. Additionally, you must pay special attention to correct and logical placement of keywords in your on-page content.

Optimizing your HTML code is part of the big puzzle that will help rank your site better. The goal of this process is to help the search engine bot (a program that crawls and reads Web pages, aka spider) to help make sense of your site and let it know clearly what your site is about.

This includes properly setting your TITLE, META, and ALT tags.

The TITLE and META tags go into HEAD section of the Web page:

<head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<title>Title of the page</title>
<meta name="description" content="Description goes here." />
<meta name="keywords" content="Keywords go here." />
</head>

Think of your website as a book that is placed in a huge bookstore or library. The TITLE identifies the theme of your site or Web page. DESCRIPTION tells someone in brief what the site or Web page is about. And KEYWORDS help to find more specific info on the Web page that a person may be searching for.

Be careful not to put too much info into these sections as this will make your Web page less relevant for anything and confusing to the search engine bot and, ultimately, human visitors. If the search engine bot finds your site confusing, it will not rank well at all on the search engine results.

You should have a separate TITLE, DESCRIPTION, and KEYWORDS for each Web page and be as specific and to the point as possible.

The ALT Tag

The other tag that is very important is your ALT tag. This tag is used for images. An image in of itself is something arbitrary to the search engine bot. It doesn’t mean much until you add an ALT tag. This tag tells the bot what the image is of and this information can now be indexed.

<img src="image.jpg" alt="Skyline of Toronto" />

Another way to even further improve the relevance of your Web page is to give keyword-specific names to your images, along with ALT tags:

<img src="skyline_of_toronto.jpg" alt="Skyline of Toronto" />

You notice that the actual filename of the image includes the keyword. That, along with the ALT tag, will add more weight to the keyword.

Bear in mind that this process will only aid in the correct indexing of your site and is only a small part of the big picture of getting ranked on the first page of search engine results pages.

Off-site Search Engine Optimization

This is by far the longest and most difficult phase of SEO since it is continuous and never really should end. It involves incoming link building which is a time consuming and tedious ongoing process. So much so that many SEO companies try to take short-cuts by buying links on sites and networks of sites. This may work for a while but eventually leads to being banned on search engines. Google is the most zealous of search engines to weed out this type of practice. Just take a look at this example of Google banning an agency for link buying.

Top 10 Internet Marketing Mistakes Made by Businesses

Many small business owners don’t realize that they can do much to contribute to the online marketing of their websites with little effort or money, or do a lot of damage. Here is a list of the top 10 Internet marketing mistakes made by businesses and how to avoid them.

1. Not having a regularly updated blog.

Content is king when it comes to online marketing. A blog is a standalone website or an area within another website where you can easily make quick posts or lengthy commentaries. You can send posts to your blog even with a smartphone. Once you learn how to run a blog, it really is an easy way to build content on your site and also promote yourself as an expert in your field. A business is missing out on a lot marketing potential without running a blog on their site. If you have a blog you should update it on a regular basis, once a week, 2 or 3 times a month at very least. But nothing turns off visitors and search engine more than blogs with posts that are months or even years old.

2. Ignoring Bing & Yahoo search engines for PPC advertising.

Most businesses focus on Google results. It’s no wonder since it is by far the most popular search engine. Businesses vehemently compete for top positions on Google’s results pages and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, known as Adwords. However, being the most popular comes also with a price. If you are not careful, you can blow a lot of money on low quality traffic. Bing and Yahoo, on the other hand, are more affordable for advertising and although search traffic is much lower than Google’s, the traffic is generally of high quality. So even if you use Adwords, you should not overlook the marketing potential of Bing and Yahoo. There may be a good percentage of your target audience using those search engines.

3. Not utilizing social media to the full.

Social media is a strong signal for search engines to rank sites, not to mention a great way to connect with new potential customers and stay connected with existing ones. At the very least, you should have a matching Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts for your business and promote them on your website. Once set up, social media pages are very easy to update. Additionally, search engine rank social media pages well for searches for your company. You should also have social media share buttons on your website so that visitors that like your pages can quickly share your link with their contacts on social media as well as like your pages on Facebook.

4. Not syncing offline and online marketing efforts.

Once you have a website and social media pages, you should use them prominently on all offline marketing material. This includes business cards, brochures, print ads, labels on vehicles and clothes, etc.

5. Poor email skills.

Email is a great way to build and establish relationships. When you write an email to someone, put yourself in the shoes of the reader and ask yourself: How does the email sound to me as the recipient? Is it cold? Does it sound like I am upset? Does it sound professional? Does it sound like an email I would like to receive? It’s true that many times an email must be to the point and at times express displeasure. However, there is no place in business to use curt or vulgar remarks. Additionally, there is no excuse for not having a closing signature such as: “Best Regards”, “Thank you”, “Sincerely”, or similar. Additionally, you should have a link to your website in the signature of all outgoing emails.

6. Sloppy writing.

I remember having bosses that almost thrived on sloppy writing, misspelled words, missing words, incomplete sentences, etc. It was like they were trying to say “I’m so busy that I don’t have time to write correctly.” However, in an online world your writing says a lot about you and your attention to details. Additionally, Google’s algorithm gives priority to pages that have text with correct grammar. So sloppy writing will hurt you online.

7. Plagiarizing content.

This is a definite no-no. Not only can this get you in some hot water, legally speaking, but also search engines like Google will either remove your site from the search results or keep you way way down so no one will ever see your site.

8. Missing happy customer opportunities.

Happy customers can help your business in many ways. One of the best ways is by leaving positive feedback on Google, Yelp, and other review services. So if you have a happy customer, ask them to leave a positive review for your business. Better still, ask to do a case study that you can add to your company site.

9. Failure to maintain cool.

If you get a complaint, whether via email or on social media, the worst you can do is lose your cool and fire back. Anything you write can be used to hurt your reputation by propagating across the Internet. The best way to deal with irate customers is quickly to respond in a tactful way. Find out the problem and offer a solution. At the very least you will encourage the person to calm down and just move on. Responding in kind will only backfire.

10. Impatience

This is one of the biggest errors made by small business. They get a new domain name and new website and if they don’t see results in the first few months, throw in the towel and start over or not. The problem is that all the investment goes to waste before it even has a chance to work. Google takes a long time to rank sites that are a year old or less. Instead of throwing in the towel, i.e. quitting, it is best to do a complete site audit (if results are not as expected within a reasonable time) and build on the investment by making the necessary changes. The Web is updated and grows at an organic rate and progress naturally is over a period of time.

Google Mobile-Friendly Update

google mobile updateToday is the official roll out of the Google mobile-friendly update. This means that mobile-friendly websites will get a boost in ranking while non-mobile-friendly sites will be forced to either become mobile-friendly or be dropped further down in the search engine results. According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, the boost in ranking will only be on searches performed on mobile devices, namely smartphones. Smart Insights reports that the mobile use for 2015 is very significant. Websites that are not mobile-friendly are set to lose a lot of traffic as most Internet users access the Web using smartphones of varied sizes. As many as 80% of Internet users use smartphones to access the Internet, according to Smart Insights.

 

 

What is a Mobile-Friendly Website

According to Google, a mobile-friendly website is one that, when accessed via a mobile device such as a smartphone, has readable text without requiring the user to zoom or tap the device to increase font size, linked (i.e. tappable) targets are spaced appropriately, and there is no need to scroll horizontally in order to view the entire page. In other words, the website pages must be nicely fitted onto whatever size of screen the user’s mobile device incorporates.

If you are wondering whether Google considers your website as mobile-friendly, you can use this mobile-friendly test page set up by Google.

Should SearchOps Clients Be Concerned

No. For the past 4 years, SearchOps and the parent company, TCK Media Group, has employed responsive Web design exclusively in all of our client work. Our websites feature pages that adjust to the size of any screen, from large desktops to small smartphones, while maintaining easy-to-read text and properly aligned images. If your site was built before then, please get in touch with us.

Only One Piece of the Puzzle

It is important to note, however, that mobile-friendly pages is just one signal out of many that Google uses to rank websites. Content is still the main driving force behind high ranking. Google makes this clear in their blog post, stating:

The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

The full impact of the changes in the Google mobile-friendly update of the search giant’s algorithm will be seen after the roll out is complete.

For more info, you can check out the FAQ page that Google set up for this update.

Top 10 Travel Marketing Tips

The Web has helped open up the incredible variety of options for tourists. Today, most people prefer to search the Web for hotel, flight, and tours, and by-pass the travel agent altogether. This, in turn, has great benefits for the hospitality industry, especially the boutique hotels and tour operators. The Web offers these travel businesses a level playing field with the big hotel and resort chains. The only factors effecting the scales to go in favor of one or the other is knowledge and time. Knowledge in terms of what marketing efforts work and time, in terms of actual hours spent on what actually works. Here, we present top 10 travel marketing tips to help you succeed in your travel and tourism business online.

1. Plan Your Search Marketing Strategy Well

Don’t assume that if you have a website then people will come. Without a well planned search marketing strategy, your website will get traffic equivalent to a hotel off the beaten track without any signs leading to it. People will only stumble upon it by accident.

A well-thoughtout search marketing strategy includes natural or organic search optimization (SEO), as well as paid search optimization (PPC). Keyword research is critical for the same keywords may not be ideal targets for both SEO and PPC. This will depend much on budget. Higher competition and search volume keywords will translate into higher cost. Low competition keywords with search volume should be taken advantage of as they are generally easier to rank for well.

2. Build Relationships

Your goals should go beyond just the quick sale. You want to build lasting relationships where the guests feel like home so that they will want to return. Show that each guest is special. Even if they stay for one night at the cheapest room. This may be a way for them to test your accommodations or services. Invite their feedback, and stay in touch with them after they leave by asking them for their email address before they leave. Make sure that your website speaks like to a close friend or, better yet, a loved family member. Make sure your emails have warmth and show that you care. Keep the same spirit when you greet and take care of your guests.

3. Take Full Advantage of Reviews

Encourage reviews, especially when you receive positive comments. There are two very different reasons for someone to take the time to write a review: either they loved the experience or hated it. You definitely want to the first reason to be the key motivator. You can also encourage reviews by offering a discount for future stays or entry into a contest to win a free night or a tour, etc.

4. Use Social Media to Spread the Word

Social media is a daily part of life for many. It allows people to connect across long distances and not-so-long distances. However, if you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn accounts for your business then you are missing on a lot of opportunities to reach new and repeat customers, as well as build relationships. Today email is not the only way to stay in touch. Social media is a great way to keep your members up-to-date. You can post short comments, photos, videos, testimonials, and more. As your list of followers, likes, and friends grows, so does the level of trust in your offerings. By the way, don’t forget to follow us @tckmedia. 😉

5. Write a Travel Blog

There are many benefits to having a travel blog that is regularly updated. It can act as an inspiration to travelers. It can provide a better picture in what to expect which in turn builds confidence and removes fears of the unknown. Probably the most important benefit is that it will aid greatly in the natural search ranking of your website. There is no doubt that spending an evening here and there to add a few posts during the week is a small price to pay. Even if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, surely someone on staff or even an outside agency can do this for you at a reasonable price.

6. Build an Affiliate Network

There are many high quality websites that rely, at least in part, on affiliate sales. If you can tap into these sites then this can lead into potentially a lot of bookings. Websites that are ideal for affiliate sales include travel blogs, comparison sites, online travel guides and other niche travel sites. You can contact them directly to build your own network, or join an existing affiliate network such as Commission Junction or LinkShare or similar.

7. Have Consistent Online & Offline Marketing

Ensure that your marketing is harmonious across all media, be it print, video, radio, Web, and otherwise. This means have your website and social media url’s on all collateral and clearly visible. Most people use multiple media devices at the same time such as TV and tablet or computer. Encourage them to get more info online.

8. Build an Email List

In the course of a day, week, and month, you may run into a lot of people. Some may book with you, most probably won’t. Some of those that won’t may be shopping around, or you may meet for other reasons. Whatever the case, make sure you collect business cards, ask for email addresses and have an email subscription form on your website.

9. Personalize

If you personalize your emails to the interests of the recipients, the more likely you will get positive responses and less likely your email will be marked as spam. For example, a couple without children will not be interested in family vacation packages, and a family with kids will not be interested in adults only resorts.

10. Make it Easy to Book

One of the biggest mistakes would be to get the visitor to your website and then make it difficult to book a reservation for him or her. It is, of course, important to have a phone number clearly visible on all the pages but also it is important to have an easy to use online booking form.